Meryl Streep’s placid, mousy Kay and Tommy Lee Jones’s grouchy, penny-pinching Arnold have been together for 30 years, but their marriage is now stale and sexless. Determined to revive the relationship, Kay somehow summons the pluck to drag the unwilling Arnold to the twee New England coastal town of Great Hope Springs for a week of intensive couple’s counselling. And under the gentle guidance of celebrity therapist Dr Bernard Feld (played straight by Steve Carell), the pair hesitantly, stumblingly, and sometimes painfully, strive to rekindle the spark in their marriage.
Like Kay and Arnold’s relationship, Hope Springs takes a while to ignite – indeed, there are times when the dullness of the couple’s marriage seems to be seeping into the film. But Streep and Jones’s carefully nuanced performances gradually draw you in. It takes a while, admittedly, to adjust to the notion of these powerful screen presences in the roles of such a stunted couple, but they never condescend or caricature their characters. Thanks to them, Hope Springs is tender, sad, funny and honest.
Director David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada) and writer Vanessa Taylor (best known as a writer and producer for TV) also deserve applause for overcoming Hollywood’s bias to the young and tackling the romantic experiences of a mature married couple.