Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Hope Springs: Reality Bites


Hope Springs is probably not the movie you expect it to be. Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones star as Kay and Arnold. They've been married for 31 years and Kay is not particularly happy about their situation: They have settled in a very stale routine, they sleep in separate beds and haven't been intimate in several years. Kay decides they should go to Maine and take an intensive couple's counseling week with marriage expert Dr. Feld (Steve Carell). Arnold initially opposes this idea, but ends up going because ha does care for his wife and also if he didn't there wouldn't be much a movie. 

This plot description, as well as the trailers would have you being pretty sure about what comes next in the story: they go to a couple of sessions, the doctor makes them do some crazy sexual stuff that old people shouldn't do and it's hilarious, they would have a fight or two and make up at the end. Classic Hollywood stuff. Well, guess again, the movie is far more interested in exploring the relationship between Kay and Arnold and the situation of their marriage than any other studio movie would be.

Much of the movie is spend in Dr. Feld's office, during the counseling sessions as the three talk about the relationship. The movie is intimate and quiet, and don't get me wrong, it's also funny, just in a much more intelligent way than what we're accustomed. Director David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada) understands where the strengths of the movie lie, so he smartly doesn't get in the way of the script and the performances: When you've got Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones acting off each other, you better not. The screenwriter is Vanessa Taylor, who gracefully avoids the obvious routes and provides a story about intimacy and overcoming problems the way they are usually solved in real life: steadily and slowly, as a process instead of an abrupt and magical answer, which is the way Hollywood likes to give relationship advice. 

This is not to say the movie is an arthouse exploration of intimacy and marriage resembling Bergman's 'Scenes of a Marriage', but it is nevertheless incredible that a Hollywood Studio decided to make a movie that feels real.

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