Saturday, August 25, 2012

Movie Review: "Hope Springs"

Tommy Lee Jones is an actor who wears his life on his face. His expressions seem almost etched in stone, projecting a weary cynicism and a taciturnity that belie deeper passions and emotions held within. His face and his gravelly voice, co-opted so marvelously by Josh Brolin in Men in Black 3 earlier this year, are keys to a depth some actors can only dream of.

That depth is on great display in Hope Springs, a poignantly amusing movie about a couple frozen in place, in routine, but who stand at the juncture between love and hate. Jones plays Arnold Soames, an Omaha accountant who has been (in his opinion) happily married to Kay (Meryl Streep, sporting no accent for the first time in a while) for 31 years. Every morning Kay makes Arnold breakfast (one egg and one strip of bacon) and lets him know what to expect for dinner before he heads off to work. Each night after dinner Arnold falls asleep in front of the television, to the soothing sounds of The Golf Channel, before the couple heads off to sleep—in separate bedrooms.

But Kay wants more from her marriage than routine and gifts for the house on their anniversary. She wants to be loved, she wants passion, and she wants—gasp—sex. She books the couple (with her own money) on a week-long intensive couples counseling session in Maine, and must cajole and threaten Arnold to join her.

As you might imagine, Arnold doesn't feel comfortable talking about his marriage, his feelings, especially his sex life, with Dr. Bernard Feld (Steve Carell, earnestly kind and empathetic). He bristles at the notion that his and Kay's relationship has any problems at all. So what if they sleep in separate bedrooms? So what if there is no more sex, no more passion? After 31 years, shouldn't you just be satisfied with what you had?

Streep and Jones give fantastic performances in this movie with a light yet serious heart. Jones proves that beneath Arnold's shell of routine and gruff silences lies anger, hurt, and, yes, passion. Without accents or drastic makeovers, Streep lays her soul and psyche bare, and you can see Kay wrestling with hurt, helplessness, and hope. As the couple deals with Dr. Feld's interrogation and his homework, as well as the ramifications of what they say and do, the movie is both funny and poignant. You may know where the movie will end, but you're not exactly sure how it will get there.

It's great to see a movie like this—one without explosions, chase scenes, or gunfire—released at all, let alone during the special-effects laden summer. While not a flawless movie, it is one with a great deal of charm for your heart, and your head.

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