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Hope Springs—movie review

Reviews
by Leonard Maltin
August 8, 2012 1:00 AM
3 Comments
  • |
Tommy Lee Jones, Meryl Streep, Hope Springs
Photo by Barry Wetcher - Courtesy GHS Productions

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.

Steve Carell, Hope Springs
Photo by Barry Wetcher - Courtesy of GHS Productions

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.

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3 Comments

  • gypsarella | September 3, 2012 12:55 PMReply

    Surprisingly boring and unrealistic. While I enjoyed seeing Meryl Streep in a different sort of role, I felt the whole movie was made as a condescending how-to lesson for folks in that predicament. The simplistic exercises expected outcomes were not realistic.
    Shy, uncomfortable couples who have trouble speaking directly about sex are not going to have any sort of sexual behavior in public. Ever.
    Most people in that age group must deal with medications that lessen libido (anti-hypertensives, Antidepressants, to name just a few.)
    Women have less hormones after menopause and taking additional hormones to replace them ups the chance of getting Cancer.
    Arthritis rears it's ugly head and postions that used to be comfortable are now painful after a short time.
    Lifelong dealing with back issues that degenerate with time kick in and pain is constant. Pain pills make you doze off.
    Let's not forget about any hip or knee replacements which make about all positions impossible or intolernt to pressure.
    Men gain weight in their abdomen which makes it very difficult to "reach" the target.
    Just cuddling or spooning all night is tough when someone has sleep apnea and must wear a mask with thick tubing to breathe without snoring. How romantic.
    Love can be shown so many ways as the movie did actually demonstrate: doing something special like reservations at an upscale restaurant or a surprise night in a luxury suite. She was up and dressed and cooked the sourpuss breakfast every day. Making an effort to watch what the other one does on TV and try to get into it. Just the effort alone is very nice. Take walks holding hands, play a board game or cards....just do things together. If one of the couple is unfortunate enough to have apnea, spend part of the evening together in bed, then retire to another bedroom where the hum of the machine and tubing don't get in the way. Such is life.

  • Shani | August 9, 2012 5:00 PMReply

    Watching this film last night, the audience seldom laughed...mostly watched silently an coughed a few times. It was a very sad story, well played by the three actors, but the acting couldn't drown out the tear-jerking sound track, or the odd and embarassing plot turns. It is pretty believable when the couple slowly, painfully undergoes couple counseling and begins to add intimacy in baby steps...little touching exercises, and so forth. The movie's 'honesty' comes into question when the therapist becomes impatient with the couple's meek progress and refusal to go along with his plans, and gives Meryl the 'assignment' to put her head in her husband's lap and pleasure him at a public movie theatre. Not especially realistic.
    Anyway, I never really bought Tommy Lee Jones as the husban who turns down sex whenever the gorgeous Meryl Streep sashays his way. Even in blue buttoned-up pajamas with white piping - Jones is still seething with energy. The husband character is his most believable when he stomps onto the plane or rages at the over-priced therapy or restaurant fried eggs. It is impossible to imagine he can't direct a little of that energetic virility toward his pretty wife as she tries wooing him in various nightgowns and girly dresses.
    Streep played the wife so timidly you have to wonder if such a woman exists anywhere? The wife was excrutiatingly meek, yet otherwise well-adjusted. Nothing really to explain her lack of character, so you pretty much had to conclude she wasn't especially bright. Even her kids were terribly patronizing toward bland little Mom. The most believable aspect of the story was when after many sessions, it appeared that the therapy had completely failed. The therapist gave them a 50% rebate, and sent them home. At this point, the ending made perfect sense.
    Spoiler alert and course language alert: We are led to believe this sexless, loveless marriage is doomed and hope is lost. Then in Hollywood fashion, the marriage suddenly turns around at the eleventh hour. The first glimmer of hope is when the husband pulls out his wallet, and springs for a decent dinner an hotel room. But the moment the tide really turns for him, is when the wife kneels, unzips her husband's trousers and pleases him. Likewise the wife's own dreams come true when her husband finally says she is beautiful and beds her missionary fashion. (Yes, bit of a double standard). At last, all is well, they can renew their wedding vows.

  • Jim Reinecke | August 8, 2012 7:58 PMReply

    The last sentence of your review sums it all up, Leonard. . .except for one quibble on my part. I would change the phrase "of our time" to "of ALL time".

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