By Leonard Maltin | Leonard Maltin August 8, 2012 at 1:00AM
First, the good news: here is a Hollywood movie for adults that deals fairly honestly with a relatable, real-life situation: a marriage that has become so routine there is no evidence of love anymore. Vanessa Taylor’s screenplay gives Meryl Streep the opportunity to build an empathetic and believable character, a woman who is so frustrated that she has reached a breaking point. It takes that for her to sign up for couples counseling in Maine with a high profile therapist, played by Steve Carell. She’s so determined to do something to fix her marriage she’s even willing to go without her spouse, if necessary.
The bad news, as far as I’m concerned, is the husband, played by Tommy Lee Jones. He is so cheap, quarrelsome, and unfeeling that we have to take it on faith that Streep found something irresistible about him thirty-one years ago.
This being a mainstream studio movie, it’s a given that he’s going to come around and there will be a happy ending. I found this development less than satisfying, not because I don’t think a couple can rekindle their long-dormant feelings for each other. I just don’t believe the way it plays out here.
All too typically, the trailers and ads for Hope Springs would have you believe that it’s a comedy when it’s not. This is a dramatic film with splashes of humor. In its best moments, during the therapy sessions, Streep and Jones movingly discuss how even a well-intentioned couple can allow themselves to drift apart. I wish the movie, and director David Frankel, had found some way to resolve its central issue in a more gradual and graceful manner.
The reward, as always, is getting to watch the finest film actress of our time create another indelible character.