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"Hope Springs"

Video: A Cautionary Tale

By: Holley Sinn

Verdict:  Approved

I would be willing to wager a guess that there is a lot more discussion surrounding marriage within my generational group than there was or is with my parents or their parents.  In fact, one might say that my generation discusses EVERYTHING quite a bit more than the more "experienced" among us.  Perhaps that is why the film "Hope Springs" still resonated with me so strongly despite the fact that the main characters therein are supposed to be in their late 50s or early 60s.  The conversations they are having about love, sex and relationships take much longer to bubble to the surface because within their peer group, repression is the norm.  The point is, that whether you are in your 30s or your 80s, you will likely find meaning, honesty and perhaps a little uncomfortable truth in "Hope Springs". 

"Hope Springs" stars Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones as Kay and Arnold, a couple celebrating their 31st wedding anniversary with nothing more than a family dinner featuring home-cooked prime rib.  Kay is desperately unhappy with her marriage and books herself and Arnold on a weeklong trip to Maine for intensive couples' therapy, presided over by Dr. Bernard Feld, played by Steve Carell.  Through a process of uncomfortable questioning and tactile exercises, Kay and Arnold begin to progress toward one of two understanding and ultimately more joyful marital experience or a painful divorce.  Arnold is resistant.  Kay is discouraged.  Evenings are spent eating cold cuts in an Econolodge.

As the week passes, Arnold begins to open up, even revealing some of his long-held sexual fantasies.  Old grudges are exposed and goals are set forth for dissolving those, but it isn't until Dr. Feld charges Arnold with truly making an effort at the risk of losing his wife that Arnold feels the weight of the week's intention.  Catharsis seems imminent when Kay purchases a sex tips book and Arnold books a romantic dinner at a swanky restaurant, but it becomes clear that fixing a broken marriage isn't one week's work. 

"Hope Springs" is a painfully honest film about what happens when we bury our feelings beneath years of habit.  Despite the inclusion of Steve Carell, who is dynamite as the soft-spoken psychologist, this is not meant to be a comedic romp.  Rather, it's an examination of life and love and what results when we live one while withholding the other.  Streep and Jones are exceptional - especially in the often awkward therapy sessions where they are asked to expose their fantasies.  There is as much weight in the silent, gaping moments than there is in the dialogue.

"Hope Spring" is rated PG-13 for mature sexual content, and it opens Wednesday in theaters all over the bay area.  Would I see it with my parents?  No, probably not.  But, I would most certainly take my husband, and I would highly recommend that couples of all ages see this film and treat it as a caution.  It's much easier not to get to that point than it is to get there and get one's nose broken. 

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