Young love is replaced by the AARP version in Hope Springs, a risky proposition in age-phobic Hollywood despite the incomparable presence of Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones. Hope Springs is a treat for thirtysomethings, and by that I mean couples who've been together for 30 years. That's the case for Kay (Streep) and Arnold (Jones), who have marriage down to a dull science. They know each other so well they barely speak. Kay has needs even 100 cable channels can't meet. She practically blackmails Arnold to join her at an intensive couples' retreat in the small Maine town of Great Hope Springs, where Dr. Bernie Feld (a delightfully deadpan Steve Carell) will toss them into a weeklong Olympics of intimacy. What could have been strained farce or, worse, geezer porn, morphs instead into a film of hilarious and heartfelt pleasures. Director David Frankel, who guided Streep to bitchy comedic heights in The Devil Wears Prada, works resonant wonders with a script by Vanessa Taylor (Game of Thrones) that has all the earmarks of a mawkish Lifetime movie. It helps that Frankel has two of the best actors on the planet to raise the game. Streep, a powerhouse inhabiting the role of a timid wife and mother, uses her exquisite timing and no-bull instinct for truth to show us a woman yearning to blossom without knowing how. And Jones matches her with 50 shades of grumpy that give way to something tender in Arnold. Within limits, of course. Hope Springs knows happy endings are provisional. What this exuberant gift of a movie offers Kay and Arnold is a renewed appetite for life. And that never gets old.
From The Archives Issue 1163: August 16, 2012