Here’s a confession. I got nervous when I saw the posters for Hope Springs. I am so used to seeing Meryl Streep play roles in which she seems larger than life that when I looked at the hairdo, the glasses and the smile, I thought something that rarely has crossed my mind — could this be a Meryl misstep?
The answer is an emphatic NO. In fact it’s actually a delight to see Meryl play an “everywoman,” and surprisingly this film turned out to be quite touching. Streep plays Kay Soames a 60 something year old woman in a long term – 31 year – marriage to Arnold (played by Tommy Lee Jones) a by the books accountant. Everyday is the same. Arnold comes down the stairs, eats his egg, reads his paper and goes to the office. They talk about dinner and the kids and that’s it. They live together, they are married, but they don’t connect in the same way anymore. No one is to blame, it just happened over the decades.
But Kay doesn’t want to spend the next decade or two or three with just a housemate. She wants her husband and the spark back and she decides to fight for it. So she books a week with a marriage therapist in Maine, tells her husband she is going and asks him to come with her. Of course he goes because there would be no movie if he didn’t get on the plane. And just as an aside, the fact that Tommy Lee Jones was playing Meryl Streep’s love interest also gave me pause. But he is really terrific in this.
While the film may be billed as a comedy – and yes there are some funny moments – don’t expect big laughs. In fact don’t really expect too much from the comedy because it is really much more about the drama in relationships with a couple of funny life moments thrown in.
Steve Carrell totally plays against type as the sex therapist who has dedicated his practice to helping couple find their way back to each other. He doesn’t get a single laugh line.
One of the really special things about the film is how Meryl Streep who looms larger than life in all our consciousnesses really plays up the vulnerability in a way we haven’t seen from her in some time. This is a very lonely woman and you can’t help but feel for her. You can immediately relate to her trying to learn in her 60s about how to create a fulfilling sex life for both of them.
Marriages have been depicted so often on screen and most times they just scratch the surface and never hit the hard parts. This movie is all about the hard parts. I give writer Vanessa Taylor for her fearlessness to show this couple with their skin exposed taking this journey for better of for worse.