After 31 years of marriage, there don’t seem to be many surprises left for Kay and Arnold, a middle-aged couple mired in complacent drudgery. There aren’t many surprises to be found in David Frankel’s Hope Springs, either. The film places the couple in an intensive week-long therapy session in Maine under the care of psychiatrist Steve Carell. One of those non-surprises is the fact that, with Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones on the couch, the film becomes more engaging and profound than it otherwise might have been.
Vanessa Taylor’s screenplay doesn’t shy away from the petty slights and resentments that can accrue over the course of a lengthy relationship, but the trajectory of her central characters is predictable and tidy, with forced obstacles suddenly cleared more out of narrative convention than organic emotion. But as Frankel sits them down in Carell’s office (the distance between them changing with an irritatingly schematic precision), a life begins to emerge. It’s not so much in what they say, though Jones’ trademark stoicism reveals decades of noble disappointment and Streep’s optimistic facade shows the seams of being stitched back together time and time again. But the true revelations come in watching them listening to each other, realizations dawning in small ways on each of their faces as the truth is revealed. For all its awkward sex scenes and Northeastern scenery, this is a film that plays out entirely on two faces.