Hope Springs is one of Meryl Streep’s most heartfelt, moving performances of her entire career. Despite what many might want to believe, it isn’t just another chick flick. It’s a movie that every married couple should see no matter how long they have been married. Co-star Tommy Lee Jones has been typecast once again as another gruff personality in a power of authority. Typically, he stars as a police officer or another similar authority figure in his movies. This time, he stars as a high powered businessman. Ironically enough, while he has been typecast yet again, his character Arnold is a fitting counterpoint to Streep’s Kay. The couple has gotten far too comfortable in its marriage, and has completely grown apart. It’s a simple story. Yet it’s such a realistic story, unlike so many rom-coms that Hollywood has churned out over the years.
Many audiences seem to have had a belief that Hope Springs was aimed largely at older audiences. But the reality of the story is that it mirrors life for younger married couples just as much as for those with years of experience. The story is less about Kay and Arnold’s sex life or lack thereof than it is about simply how the pair has forgotten who the other is. As a result Kay and Arnold are more strangers to each other than a married couple. Again, this is something that is just as easy for younger couples to have happen as for those who have been marred for decades. Maybe that is why the audiences and critics that panned it did so. Perhaps, just perhaps, those that panned it didn’t like seeing the reality of their own lives playing out on screen. This sort of denial and rejection is exemplified through Arnold’s own refusal and denial to talk to Doctor Feld (played here by Steve Carell in what is one of his most impressive roles yet, too). No one likes to have to admit when things aren’t the way they are in life. This is especially the case when it comes to relationships and marriages. If viewers can get past their own pride—as Arnold was forced to do—they will see just how much value this story has, even if watched just once and that it is okay to admit that no one’s marriage is perfect. It’s something that couples have to work at throughout their lives. As John Lennon and his band mates in The Beatles sang, “All you need is love.”
The central story of Hope Springs is one to which any married couple can relate. For all of its deep, heartfelt moments, audiences can’t possibly ignore the story’s funnier moments. The way in which Doctor Feld candidly talks about Kay and Arnold’s sexual relationship and the couple’s reaction to his candid discussion. This is just one more factor that makes Hope Springs so enjoyable for any married couple. The very thought of discussing what goes on behind closed doors or in the deepest recesses of a person’s mind is still considered very taboo by most Americans. Keeping this in mind in seeing the reaction of both Kay and Arnold will leave any viewer laughing. It’s obvious how uncomfortable both Kay and Arnold felt in discussing their sex life…or in their case, the lack thereof. For all of the comic elements of these moments, the deeper more emotional root of the couple’s lack of intimacy reminds audiences how serious this can be on a marriage. It’s just one more aspect of the near two hour movie that makes it surprisingly enjoyable.
The acting and the writing of Hope Springs are both important to the movie’s success. There is one more factor that should be given note here in the story’s success. That factor is the work of the movie’s makeup department. In so many of the movies in which Streep has starred, she has managed to look different from her previous role. This movie is one more of those cases. This movie’s makeup department is to be highly commended for making Meryl look so believable as an older woman. From the makeup to the hair, there was something about her look that was completely different from her previous roles. It was done so expertly that one can’t help but wonder, is this perhaps what she would look like off-screen without her makeup? In other words, the hair and makeup looked natural. And to look natural is a success. It makes Kay that much more believable as a character. And along with the acting of both Streep and Jones, and the story’s writing, Hope Springs turns out as a whole, to be a movie that any married couple should see at least once in their marriage. It is available now in stores and online.
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