It’s not often movies aim at winning over the above 50 crowd. We have movies for children, adrenaline fueled young men, overemotional teenage girls and nearly everyone in between, but the older crowd is continually shafted when it comes to the movies. Where are the thoughtful, mature films starring older actors in a story about problems that detail the struggles they have to endure? They’re pretty rare, the last mainstream one I can think of coming in the form of 2009’s It’s Complicated starring Meryl Streep. This week’s latest, Hope Springs, which also coincidentally stars Meryl Streep, is more in line with that film than most that have come out in recent years. It’s for older folks, those who have lived a long enough life to know what real troubles are and what true love is. Being a male in my 20’s, I can’t say how well it captures such a life, but I can say we need more movies like it. Hope Springs is contemplative and deliberate, taking its time to tell its story in an age of fast action and frenetic edits. It’s by no means perfect, but it’s worth seeing.
Streep plays Kay, a housewife who is in a rut. Every day it’s the same routine. She wakes up, makes eggs and bacon for her husband, Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones), and has dinner ready when he arrives back home, which he eats before falling asleep in his La-Z-Boy watching the Golf Channel. She has become increasingly unhappy with her marriage since her kids moved out and she wants to fix it, so she books a flight to Maine where noted couples therapist Dr. Feld (Steve Carell) works. She has paid for a week’s worth of his consultation hoping it will save her marriage, but first she has to contend with her unwilling husband.
Despite inevitable comparisons to the aforementioned It’s Complicated (especially considering both are aiming for the same demographic), Hope Springs is quite different. It’s Complicated tried to spice things up a bit, shoehorning in internet lingo and references to MTV shows in a desperate attempt to be hip. In this regard, Hope Springs is more adult, even if it does sacrifice much of its energy and laughs in being so. This isn’t a movie about a woman who’s sleeping around and juggling multiple men like It’s Complicated. It’s about a woman who wants to reconnect with the one love of her life after having grown distant.
The film rightfully refuses to take sides, showing that Kay and Arnold have both been compliant in allowing their marriage to crumble and they both behave as you would expect. Kay wants to express her feelings while Arnold wants to keep them inside. He’s nervous about the whole situation and is embarrassed to talk about their sex life, something he considers to be deeply personal, with Dr. Feld, which could be any random person for all he cares. Throughout the film, Arnold complains about what they’re doing, using sarcasm and general meanness as a defense mechanism to hide his true fears about losing his wife, which is both the strongest and weakest aspect of the film. He and his wife are in a serious situation, one that threatens to destroy everything they know, but these one-liners and sarcastic quips are the central comedic aspect of the film. It’s hard to make the dialogue be both meaningful and humorous. Hope Springs never fully succeeds in doing so.
Still, their evolution is convincing. Even as Arnold slowly comes out of his shell, his reservations still show through. In time, he realizes he must do something if he wants his wife to stay with him, but he doesn’t know what. Neither character ever fully figures it out, but they change anyway in an attempt to make things better, which, in a sense, is really what love is all about. By the time it ends, Hope Springs has delved deeper into that topic than what many will expect. It’s profundity isn’t necessarily apparent as you’re watching it—perhaps our brains are more tuned to less grounded, Hollywood manufactured takes on love—but upon recollection, it shows its beautiful face.
Hope Springs receives 4/5