Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Hope Springs: No Laff Riot

OK, one last post about love during the traditional month of romance:

Keeping a marriage together is a lot like losing weight---the solutions aren't rocket science but do involve self-discipline, leaving one's comfort zone, and daily prioritization of the objective.

In the 2012 film Hope Springs Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones play a couple married for 31 years. The fire--not just sex, but communication--has long since gone out of the relationship. The children have left home, and Kay and Arnold Soames are little more than co-tenants (with outside jobs) in a capacious, neatly kept suburban house.

Kay cannot envision living out her life in such a sterile environment. She signs them up for an expensive, away-from-home week of marriage counseling, and Arnold gets on the plane very reluctantly.

The rest of the movie, especially with Steve Carell as the marriage therapist, seems ripe for laughs with its ready-made ingredients of aging, elder sex, and a gruff, silent husband being pushed to open up. While there are some comic moments, the movie largely plays it straight. Both Steve Carell and Tommy Lee Jones are revelations as they play against expectations; Carell refuses to mug for the audience, and Jones makes Arnold's transformation believable. Meryl Streep, as usual, immerses herself in her role as Kay so completely that we (almost) forget that she's Meryl Streep.

This movie is well worth the time of (ahem) older folks who want to see their demographic played realistically. But a laff riot, it's not.

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