“Hope Springs” Movie Review

     The tagline for “Hope Springs” reads “A comedy from the director of The Devil Wears Prada” and while there are a few moments in which you may smile, this film is anything but a comedy.  Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones are kind of stuck in the middle.  You get the feeling they’re both trying to play a scene for a laugh, but then they realize the issues they are depicting on screen are serious, forcing them to go for the dramatic.  Dramatic is what you will see most of in this film about a couple who has been married  31 years and how they resolve constant unhappiness.

     Each and everyday, Kay (Meryl Streep) and Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) arise in the morning from separate bedrooms.  Arnold is a partner at an accounting firm and Kay seems to function primarily as a house wife with a part time job at a retail store.  They have fallen into what appears to be a standard routine where each morning Kay is downstairs and in the kitchen making breakfast for Arnold.  With precision timing, Kay has one egg and one piece of bacon ready as Arnold emerges in a business suit with his briefcase and newspaper.  Each day ends with Arnold falling asleep in his easy chair watching television shows about golf.  In between, there is no interaction and you quickly get the idea neither of them is happy.

     Kay goes to a bookstore in search of help and finds a book written by a marriage counselor named Dr. Feld, who is played in the film by Steve Carell.  Using her savings, Kay books a one week therapy session in Maine with Dr. Feld, an idea Arnold is instantly against.  Arnold is the ultimate grumpy old man and wants nothing to do with spending the money to go talk to a total stranger about his problems.  Essentially, Kay tells Arnold she expects to see him on the flight and that she is going with or without him.  Reluctantly, Arnold makes the flight, but this doesn’t mean he is anymore cooperative.

     It’s at this point in the film where I would’ve expected something more.  Streep and Jones do an excellent job laying the groundwork as the audience certainly understands these two have serious problems.  I wanted to see Carell’s character engage these two in what should’ve played out as lively comic banter.  I’m sure this thought entered my mind simply from the casting of Carell, but also with the film being billed as a comedy.  Unfortunately, this is not the case as the sessions with Dr. Feld are dead serious.  Feld asks the questions you would think he would ask and nothing more.  Most of the answers from Arnold and Kay, as they sit on separate ends of the couch, are filled with deep seeded anger and emotion.  There isn’t a laugh to be had in any of the counseling scenes.

     Outside of the therapy, Dr. Feld gives Arnold and Kay homework assignments that center around the fact the two have not had sex in over 4 years.  I felt there could’ve been a chance at some truly comic moments from these two pros in these scenes, but instead they are also played serious and typically end with one or both of them crying.  It also seemed awkward watching two sixty somethings getting it on in scenes that seemed to be a bit overlong.  For anyone not near the age of Streep and Jones, its like watching your parents on screen doing things you’d rather not see ever.

     I can’t take anything away from Streep or Jones in this film, as they are as committed as ever.  I do wonder what both of them think after seeing the finished product, since they set out to make a comedy but instead have something more along the lines of Streep’s “Kramer vs Kramer”.  The addition of Carell makes no difference at all and I’m really not sure why they cast him in the first place.  He delivers not one piece of dialogue designed to make you laugh.  Perhaps he has entered the stage of his career where he wants to take on more serious roles and if so, he found one here.  The marital problems in this film are real and a film like this will only play to the most mature of audiences.  The end product; however, plays very average with no memorable scenes and the characters could really be anyone as there is nothing special about any of them.  After all, everyone has problems.  GRADE: C