After thirty years of marriage, Kay is feeling rather… unsatisfied. Her grouchy husband Arnold sleeps in a different bedroom and rejects any romantic overtures from Kay that may lead to sex. Wanting to reignite the passion in her marriage, Kay signs them up for a week-long, intensive couples counseling session with Dr. Feld. Kay is eager, Arnold is reluctant, to say the least, and the couple must figure out if their marriage is worth saving.
I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect going into this movie. I’m a fan of Tommy Lee Jones and of course, I love Meryl Streep. Add Steve Carrell as a bonus and it seemed like a no brainer that I would give this a watch. I feel like it’s so rare to see romantic movies centered around mature relationships, especially where sex is the focal point. Is it a comfortable watch? No. You can absolutely feel Kay’s humiliation and pain that accompanies Arnold’s constant rejection to where you begin to wonder at what point will she tell him she’s leaving him? But Arnold isn’t a mean or abusive person. He has his doubts and his own sexual hang-ups. These are revealed during therapy, as are Kay’s.
I have to admit, there were parts of the movie that did make me uncomfortable and I really don’t consider myself a prude by any means. It was truly like sitting in on a couples’ therapy session, hearing the most intimate details of their sex life, things they like or dislike, fantasies they may have. Kay even attempts to give Arnold oral sex at a movie theater, and their attempts at physical intimacy feel awkward and stilted. But despite their inability to re-ignite the passion, you can see their familiarity with one another and why these two people were still in love after so many years.
Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones were perfectly cast and I can’t think of many seasoned actors who could have made this movie as charming, awkward, and sweet as they did. Streep is obviously an actress who can shine in any movie, good or bad, so I absolutely expected and received the standard Streep performance she gave here as Kay. Tommy Lee Jones is wonderful as well and gives Arnold an emotional complexity that is absolutely needed in order to sympathize with him. As for Steve Carrell, his role as Dr. Feld is fine. He fits the role of a very patient therapist quite well, although there is nothing overly special or flashy about it. I had wondered if maybe he took the role just so he could work with Lee and Streep. I probably would have.
I feel like after a point in life, a certain demographic is forgotten and ignored, like people aren’t supposed to be, or allowed to be sexual after the age of 50. Hope Springs tackles this problem pretty bluntly. Even if you become comfortable with the person you’re married to, that doesn’t mean you have to lose that sexual spark. I’m not sure Hope Springs is a movie I’ll ever watch again, but I’m glad I gave it a chance. Enjoy the rollercoaster of emotions because the ending is definitely worth all of the uncomfortable sex talk in between.