Tonight I had the pleasure to watch the new Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones movie titled Hope Springs. This movie is for every couple at any stage in their relationship – married or partnered – it doesn’t matter. We all have our issues, but how far are you willing to let the problems go before you try to do something about it. That’s what this story is ultimately about. Do you love that person enough to put everything on the line for them in order to save the marriage/relationship? Or do you walk away?
The movie is light and funny and the awkwardness is all too relatable. It’s a story about Kay and Arnold, a couple married for 31 years stuck in the monotony that has become their life. Every day it’s the same thing: Kay cooks Arnold his breakfast, they both head off to work only to return home where Kay has prepared dinner. After dinner it’s time for Arnold to watch ESPN or some kind of golf program while Kay cleans the kitchen. Arnold promptly falls asleep in the recliner, she wakes him, and they prod up to bed – separate bedrooms of course. Then the whole thing starts again the next morning.
But Kay has had enough. She wants a REAL marriage again. The solution: a week of intensive marriage counseling in Maine. Once in marriage counselling, both people start to explore their relationship at an attempt to rekindle the intimacy they lost so long ago.
I must say, as always, Ms. Streep is at the top of her game. She plays Kay as the quiet, obedient wife afraid to speak up about her true feelings. You can identify with her struggle to express such deep and vulnerable emotions as she’s trying to talk to their marriage counselor (played by Steve Carrell) about the intimate details of the long-lost sex life she once shared with Arnold. But you don’t just root for Kay through the whole movie. She is frustrating when she just can’t seem to express herself clearly. She shuts down and then runs off many times when the tough questions or uncomfortable scenarios are presented.
Tommy Lee Jones was just as brilliant. A man’s man is how I have always seen Mr. Jones in the movies. But not here. Here this man is prideful and scared at the same time. He knows his wife is unhappy, but believes that if they just keep going through their routine day by day their problems will disappear. The fact that Arnold must admit to himself that there is in fact a problem is ultimately his biggest challenge, and Mr. Jones plays that vulnerability to a tee. Like Kay, Arnold frustrates you with his stubbornness to see the reality of the situation. But at the same time, you want him to face his emotions and save his marriage.
My biggest critique of the movie is that the writers brush over some of Arnold’s most private issues. You never really learn why Arnold has become who he’s become. For a movie that runs two hours and one minute, a few more minutes to explain some of these issues is necessary. For example, an explanation as to why he couldn’t look at Kay during sex would have given the character that much more depth. For all I know, that explanation might be on the editing room floor.
Leaving the movie theater, I couldn’t help but think about my own marriage and what I would do in Kay and Arnold’s situation. No marriage or relationship is perfect, we all have our private issues. In fact, one quote by Steve Carrell’s therapist really summed it up best, “Marriages have good years and they have bad years, but you don’t give up.” Hope springs from those who try to make it work. Those who try to make a change. Those willing to work together. Hope Springs does an excellent job of getting this point across.