Their kids up and grown, Kay and Arnold Soames, of Omaha, have been married 31 years. Kay, a retail shop worker played by
Then Kay takes a leap of faith: She cashes in some savings to take part in a couples therapy workshop conducted in a small costal Maine town, a long way from Nebraska. This is, after all, "About Schmidt" country. The Soameses probably know
Steve Carell, playing it wonderfully straight, is the relationship adviser regarded with a jaundiced eye by Arnold at first sight. The town's name, Great Hope Springs, offers handy metaphorical hope. (There was a
A surprising amount of Vanessa Taylor's lean, attentive script is taken up with the counseling sessions themselves. Kay seizes on the Carell character's daily exercises and homework assignments to rekindle the couple's sensual connection. Arnold looks ashen. He says as little as possible for fear of going places, emotionally, he may never have been before. He doesn't want to give voice to anything that should've been "left unsaid" and can't be taken back, especially when it comes to his intimate life with Kay. What's left of it? Is it enough?
From the ads, "Hope Springs" looks like trouble; there's the beatific Streep, mugging (though extremely well), and Jones looking like a grump, and a tag line that says "Fall in love again this August." The movie threatens formulaic crud. It isn't. It's good.
As in director
Streep's excellence is no surprise, but to some degree Jones' performance is. Often his blase authority can seem like boredom in disguise, or not disguised at all. Here, you're getting a real performance, and you really feel for the guy. Frankel keeps the easy comedy of discomfort in check. Screenwriter Taylor has spent a decade working on series television ("Gideon's Crossing," "Alias,"
Little things bugged me about "Hope Springs," including the end credits (which depict a rather-too-radically changed main character) and the musical score, which seems nervous to reassure us that all the angst will pay off in rainbows. But it's gratifying to see a movie that doesn't have anything to do with superheroics or the end of the world, merely ordinary heroics of the human heart.
'Hope Springs' -- 3 stars
MPAA rating: PG-13 (for mature thematic content involving sexuality)
Running time: 2:01