A couple years ago, Meryl Streep played an aging woman rekindling the bond with her estranged husband in “It’s Complicated.” “Hope Springs” shares a similar premise in addition to casting Streep as a veteran woman seeking romance once again. While this is familiar territory, “Hope Springs” actually manages to improve upon “It’s Complicated” in almost every department. Where that romantic comedy from Nancy Meyers was basically an extended episode of a sitcom, this film has much more believable characters and situations. It moreover offers a frank look into the lives of a couple in their twilight years.
Streep is Kay and Tommy Lee Jones is her grouchy husband, Arnold. Somewhere down the line in their 30 years of marriage, the two lost a certain fling. They sleep in separate beds in different rooms, preventing them from having intercourse of any kind. When Kay approaches Arnold one night in search of romantic interaction, he claims that he’s not up to it. The most intimacy they ever share is when Arnold kisses Kay on the cheek as he rushes out the door in the morning.
Arnold is content with his humdrum routine of having breakfast, going to work, eating dinner, and falling asleep watching golf. Kay, however, wishes to travel back to the days of their passionate youth. She reads a book about marriage by a psychologist named Dr. Feld, played by Steve Carell, and insists on going to see him in Maine. While Arnold refuses at first, he eventually agrees to attend to appease his distant wife.
David Frankel of “The Devil Wears Prada” delivers a sincere directorial outing and Vanessa Taylor shows authentic promise with her debut screenplay.
The film’s selling point though is the performances from the perfectly cast Streep and Jones. Although they are two of the most recognizable and legendary actors in the business today, the audience never distinguishes their relationship as anything less than genuine.
These are the kind of people we all know, whether they’re members of our own family or a friend’s family. It’s both relatable and engaging to observe this likable couple recapture what they once had through humor and honesty.
Also good here is Carell, who seems to be toning down his act with this film and “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.”
This has been a very strong year for unique, meaningful love stories like “Moonrise Kingdom,” “Safety Not Guaranteed” and “Ruby Sparks. “Hope Springs” might not be as smart or original as any of those movies. For what it is though, the film succeeds as a light, sweet, and tender romance with A-list work from its stars.
It’s additionally nice to see that the 63-year-old Streep can still take on a role centered on sexual tension. Where most respected actresses her age steer clear of sexual roles, she’s not afraid to play those characters.
• Ahwatukee native and Desert Vista graduate Nick Spake is a student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for five years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.