Hope Springs(released Aug/12)is a tour de force character study/performance starring Meryl Streep as Kay Soames,Tommy Lee Jones as Arnold Soames,Steve Carell as Dr. Bernie Feld,Elisabeth Shue as Karen and others.Streep,Jones and Carell are the mainstays of this picture,which,as Mary Poppins would say,is practically perfect in every way.The film is definitely geared to an older demographic,so don't show this one to the kids as it does have some very adult themes in it.But children of the age group portrayed,might also see something in it either of themselves(as in maybe what's to come if...) or their relatives.
The story finds Streep and Jones as wife and husband,married for 31 years.Their marriage,to put it mildly,is in a funk.Jones has settled into his daily routine while Streep has come to the realization that she wants more of what the couple used to have,as far as their relationship and intimacy goes.Streep finds a book written by a therapist,who happens to also run a marriage clinic in a remote town in Maine(Carell).Streep of her own accord and without warning,pays for the $4,000 trip there,and hands Jones the tickets for the plane.He is adamantly opposed to it and vows to stay home.Come the morning of the flight Streep is off by herself to the airport and onto the plane.Just as it looks like she is really going solo,Jones appears and off they fly.
The town is quaint and rustic but Jones is constantly complaining of how much everything is costing.They have their first meeting with Carell who is super professional,patient and understanding.Jones however is not very cooperative at all.
The sessions go step by step,as the two try to overcome years of emotional and physical baggage.For every step forward,there seems to be one or two back.Jones is seemingly the bad guy up to a point,but we find out Streep also has alot to do with what has gone on in their marriage and relationship(it is a two way street after all).When the two get to,as the doctor describes it,"the one yard line",a disagreement/let down almost threatens to derail the entire process.They stay the course,but the two never successfully and completely turn things around,and they end up returning home with things,sadly,back almost to square one.Streep is ready to call the marriage quits,as she actually gets packed and ready to leave.That night Jones enters her room and closes the door behind him;totally out of character(yes,they sleep in separate bedrooms).The thought of Jones losing his wife finally melts away his stubborn pride and the two finally begin their long journey back to regaining what they had lost.
The film ends,and the credits roll,as Carell is presiding over the two's recommitting of their marriage vows on a beach(as per Streep's wishes).Very romantic.
Watching Streep and Jones playing an average married couple(their on screen chemistry was amazing,as was their underacting!),and who talk through the cause and effects their specific marital problems have had on them and their marriage,is an absolute delight.Also Carell plays the eternally calm and pleasant therapist on whose words hangs the balance of the Soames marriage,and I give high kudos to him for his wonderful portrayal.This is definitely a movie geared for the baby boomers out there and as such,in some big or small aspect,should touch a nerve with about every one of them.For a blooper,keep an eye on Jones when during the first session where he finally opens up about his sexuality,he does a couch scooching.In one shot he's at the far end of the couch the pair sit on,the next he is in the middle,then it's back to the end again.As a matter of fact the entire couch sitting routine is something else.Streep always,unless alone,sits on the right side.Through out the sessions,and depending on how well they are going,Jones goes from the opposite end,to the middle,back,all the way beside Streep,and then back to the end.This coupled with their body language are little things that really help put the film over.
Technically speaking the film is in its w/s a/r of 2:40:1 and is clear and crisp.Extras include commentary, a gag reel,a featurette and alternate takes.
All in all a wonderfully done look at the coming apart and restoring of a 31 years marriage gone wrong.It's like getting your own private therapy session,or being the bug on a wall at a real one.The threesome of Carell,Jones and Streep are simply outstanding.4-4 1/2 stars.