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Movie Review

Hope Springs

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for mature thematic content involving sexuality.

Reviewed by: Scott Brennan
CONTRIBUTOR

Offensive
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Adults
Genre:
Comedy Drama
Length:
2 hr. 1 min.
Year of Release:
2012
USA Release:
August 10, 2012 (wide—2,200+ theaters)
DVD: December 4, 2012
Copyright, Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures click photos to ENLARGE Copyright, Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures Copyright, Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures
Relevant Issues
Copyright, Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures
Sex, Love and Relationships
Learn how to make your love the best it can be. Christian answers to questions about sex, marriage, sexual addictions, and more. Valuable resources for Christian couples, singles and pastors.

recommended Christian books on sex and marriage—see below

how to avoid the loss of romance in long marriage

When is marriage counseling necessary?

importance of good, wise Christian counsel rather than worldy views

need for a close relationship with Jesus Christ in marriage

Why are some men less likely to discuss their FEELINGS than are women?

dangers of becoming a habitual complainer

Featuring: Meryl StreepKay
Tommy Lee JonesArnold
Steve CarellDr. Feld
Jean Smart … Eileen, Kay’s Friend
Ben Rappaport … Brad, Their Son
more »
Director: David Frankel—“Collateral Beauty” (2016), “Marley and Me” (2008), “The Devil Wears Prada” (2006)
Producer: Management 360
Escape Artists
more »
Distributor: Columbia Pictures, a division of Sony Pictures

“Hope springs eternal” is an old adage, one that befits this story of a marriage gone dry and in need of new life. For Arnold Soames (Tommy Lee Jones) and his wife Kay (Meryl Streep), this meant taking some risks, like flying 1500 miles to a small seaside town in Maine to come under the tutelage of a week long, private, and intensive therapy session with Dr. Good (Steve Carell). For Arnold, it was the classic “twisting of the arm” by the wife that pulled him along the journey. For Kay, it was the path of last resort—as she pressed forward on her quest for intimacy, and for a return to the marriage of her youth, at least as she remembered it.

The film fits the definition of a “chick flick” in many ways, but is targeted more for the over 40 crowd for sure—the “empty nesters” to be precise. That is not to say there weren’t surprises in the film and ones that would appeal to men. Most of those unexpected turns in the script were built into the believable character changes so aptly portrayed by these three movie stars—shining through in each of their successive scenes.

It was remarkable to see Carell play such a convincing serious role as a therapist (Dr. Bernie Feld) who really cared, without any of the usual antics from his comedy persona. In addition, the softer side of Tommy Lee Jones’ predictably gruff nature was almost like a time-released aroma—not too much—too soon—but right on queue—when it needed to be there. Of course, both of their roles could only be enhanced by the acting talents of possibly the greatest actor of our time, Streep, just coming down from her recent Oscar® win of Best Actress for her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher last December.

The quality direction by David Frankel (“The Devil Wears Prada,” “Marley and Me”) was subtle, and purposefully understated. The film moved slowly and deliberately and gave the viewer a sense of slow death of a marriage that was bruised, but not completely broken—of a candle flame that was nearly extinguished—but still smoldering.

As would be expected in a film that would revolve around intense therapy sessions on the topic of intimacy in marriagesex was bound to come up—and it did. There was talk about orgasm, masturbation and fantasy (which included a three-way fantasy on Arnold’s part), along with their mutual reticence to engage in oral sex as a couple. Married for 31 years, but now sleeping in separate rooms at home, they are encouraged to practice some directed instructional exercises each night when they return to their Econo Lodge room in the small seaside town.

There are 3 uses of profanity (G*d dam@#) but not much else in the foul language department, other than the public sharing about their private sexual practices. There is an awkward scene simulating oral sex in a dimly lit movie theater by Jones and Streep that felt out of place and contrived, by first time big screen writer Vanessa Taylor—but, overall, the film is fairly tame. It feels gritty, real, and has intense moments, where I genuinely hurt for this couple. However, the conversations and actions of these traditional non-religious characters could easily be offensive to many Christian viewers. There are a couple of suggestions about alcohol being a solution to relieving stress and a prescription offered by a doctor to quell anxiety which also carries negative weight. Yet, even with all the aforementioned, the film truthfully never felt raunchy, to me, or gauche. It didn’t slide down the scale as far as “It’s Complicated”, also starring Streep, where I noted in a previous interview how I felt like I was being exposed to propaganda to promote marijuana use.

In summary, this film has been done before, many times, but somehow this seemed fresh, a tired tale rejuvenated… much like the marriage is trying to be revived in the film. As I mentioned above, the acting and directing is notable and those efforts combined made the audience care about the characters in this film. It is likely that my above comments for concern will keep this film out of the Christian mainstream for viewing, for some, and probably rightly so. However, I left the theater thinking of the Scripture, “A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out” (Isaiah 42:3) and thought of how much grace was available to any couple whose marriage is in trouble. Further, the entire movie could be considered a metaphor for returning to our first love (Christ) when the joy of our salvation was fresh and vibrant. Fortunately, the savvy Christian can have that conversation in prayer any day of the week, without having to view “Hope Springs.”

Violence: None / Profanity: Moderate—“G*d damn” (3), “God,” “Jesus,” “Jesus Christ,” “My God,” “Oh G*d,” S.O.B., “pr*ck,” “hell,” “damn,” / Sex/Nudity: Heavy

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.

Recommended Bible-based reading from our Christian Answers on-line shop


Viewer CommentsSend your comments
Comments below:
Positive
Positive—This was an excellent movie for middle aged couples. This movie was superbly written, outstanding in content which mostly couples who have had a long marriage can appreciate greatly. The actors were stupendous! I was so impressed with the down to earth middle income look inside a marriage who raised children, lost touch with each other, I cannot say enough good things about this movie. I have not seen a movie with this much dialog in a long time. It showed how in marriage we get in a rut and lose what brought a couple together in the first place. It was great! Good job from the actors, directors and producing of this type of move! I am so glad I dragged my husband to see this, as we are not regular movie goers! Thanks for a great movie!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Excellent! / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Pamela Koch, age 57 (USA)
Positive—Just wanted to point out a mistake in the review. The “prescription” for anxiety was the name of a book the doctor wanted her to get in town at the book store. Although awkward to watch dealing with sexual matters, the movie does a great job at showing the reality of marriage, when it goes wrong. I think it’s great to see Hollywood tackle the subject of sex that is actually happening where it should be, within the context of a married man and woman.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—Diane, age 34 (USA)
Positive—I found the movie to be an honest look of allowing life to become stale, marriage needs to be nurtured and cared for always, my hope is more couples would take a look at where their marriage is headed, because we all seem to take our spouses for granted. I felt it treated a very serious issues with humor and honesty, trust it can get couples to talk, rather than continue to build up walls… Some areas were not in the best of taste, could have gone without the movie theater scene, but showed she was willing to let her husband know she wanted to save what they once shared. I felt the actors enjoyed filming the movie and is a joy to see Tom Jones and Meryl Streep in a movie together.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Better than Average / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Barbara, age 69+ (USA)
Positive—I did like this movie, but I probably wouldn’t want to see it again anytime soon. Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones were great and fun to watch, and it was nice that any sexual content was kept between a married couple… but married or not, some parts were just a little too awkward to have up on a screen for everyone to see.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: 4½
—Kadie Jo, age 20 (USA)
Neutral
Neutral—I, too, agree that it was refreshing to see a movie about a down-to-earth couple dealing with very real issues. The acting was outstanding, the setting was authentic, and the chemistry (or non-chemistry) was dead on. But it all started to fall apart when they got on the so-called “therapists” couch. While the therapist seemed to ask some good questions, and make some astute observations (which yielded some good laughs), I grew frustrated that his attention was fixated on the Hollywood “sex solves everything” mindset. This led to some gratuitous experimentation. While meant to offer some awkward situations to laugh over, it only resulted in cringe-worthy scenes to fast-forward through. In the end, sex magically broke through years of marriage issues, and I walked away with a sense of disappointment over a waste of such potential for a movie to go against the tide of hollow clichés. It started real, but ended in an implausible fizzle.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Bruce, age 49 (USA)
Neutral—I looked forward to the combination of Meryl Street and Tommy Lee Jones—two great actors. Oh, but what a sorry story. It is entirely about an older couple trying to have sex. Well, she does, , and he doesn’t. There was plenty of humor, because both main actors managed to put a humorous inflection into their characters. But in the end, it was all so pitiful. The great Meryl Streep, one of our best actresses, practicing oral sex on a banana, and Tommy Lee Jones in the act of intercourse. Not that the subject matter is heinous. I am sure the lack of sexual intimacy is a serious issue for many older couples. But the focus of this movie is so narrowly focused on this older married couple trying to achieve a physical relationship that it all ends up being shallow, and kind of dirty.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
Halyna Barannik, age 66 (USA)
Neutral—Yes, I was SHOCKED at the amount of sex! I don’t watch movies like that, and I couldn’t believe how long the scenes were. I did shut my eyes! And I thought “Titanic” had a lot of sex. And during this movie they talked about sex constantly in therapy, however these two had not had sex in 5 years, and they needed to talk about it. I, too, CANNOT believe it’s PG-13—shows the state of our world! Unfortunately, there are many married couples in this world that don’t have sex, and, hopefully, this movie helped bring some people closer together. I think the story between these two is a big reason why so many couples are getting divorced after 30 years. The movie really did make you think and had me crying about my marriage and how close you feel to someone or not. It is good, but wait till the video, so you can fast forward the sex parts. Weird!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 5
—Samantha, age 37 (USA)
Neutral—There is very detailed sexual conversation and simulation, so those that would squirm with this subject matter need to leave this one alone. The couple is married and seeking to restore their relationship, so the morality of the intimacy is not a question in my mind, but some will no doubt struggle with the level of detail that the counselor is seeking to get from the couple, and the “homework” would probably be added to the list of things some would rather not watch. I found it satisfying that a relationship was returned to health, and I enjoyed the main characters, but I would also probably not watch this one again. Any older couple struggling with relationship issues is going to fidget a lot while watching this one (fair warning).
My Ratings: Moral rating: Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—HL Lassiter, Jr, age 52 (USA)
Negative
Negative—I cannot believe that this movie is PG-13. I figured how bad can it be and went against my usual practice of not watching a movie until I have read some reviews here. BAD decision! This movie should be rated R or higher. The movie centers around discussions of sex that the married couple has with a marriage counselor. The questions are very graphic. There are also numerous sexual scenes that are terribly uncomfortable to watch. Although there is not any nudity, it is graphic!

This is all done under the guise of a marriage, but make no mistake, it is done for shock values and laughs. No child or teen would want to see these intimate acts between two older actors. There is an overall strong message about keeping the relationship alive in an aging marriage, but it is done in a very vulgar manner.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 4
—Darnell, age 43 (USA)
Negative—Wow, many movie goers walked out during the graphic scene of the masturbation of Meryl Streep. They definitely could of left this scene OUT of the movie, and it would of been cute. A few other scenes of her trying oral sex in a movie theater—very raunchy. Should of been rated R. Very disappointed, not what I expected.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Very Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3
—Anna, age 50 (USA)
Negative—The review of this film by Mr. Brennan is as hopeless as the film itself. I went to this movie based on his review, thinking I was in for a treat. Sadly, the entire film was an experience in sub par film making, idiotic plot situations, bad acting and I’m out $20. Mr. Brennan, you have got to be on another planet if you think this stupid movie rates an audience. Here is my review, and I hope your readers see it; Don’t Go, It’s A Waste Of Money!!
My Ratings: Moral rating: Average / Moviemaking quality: ½
—Keith Newton, age 55 (USA)
Negative—I am so sorry that I saw this movie. I am an older Christian and saw this in a mixed-gender group. It was horribly embarrassing. I walked out during the movie theater scene for a while, I couldn’t bear it and wondered if it could get much worse. Thankfully, that was one of the last bad scenes. I cannot believe this was rated PG-13. To think that teenagers will see this, and then they may figure it’s all justifiable because of the legitimacy of teenage viewing—implied by the rating. I could barely look at the friends I saw this movie with the next time I saw them. Granted, I usually just go to movies I thoroughly research. I made an exception based on an interview I saw with Meryl Streep and what I thought the plot was. I thought it was about rebuilding marital intimacy, not just sexual intimacy.

This movie renews my resolve to not see a movie I haven’t reviewed via a Christian Web site. The one good thing is the attempt to discuss/address an important issue. But the matter could have been more discretely addressed. Some of the best movies in the past were discrete. These fine actors could certainly carry a movie that was more discrete. In my opinion, as far as Christians go, this movie is only appropriate for married couples or those who have been. In fact, it’s probably only questionably appropriate for them. Definitely not a date movie. And to read the tone of this review is somewhat surprising, too. It shows you how the culture/movies have jaded people.
My Ratings: Moral rating: Extremely Offensive / Moviemaking quality: 3½
—CV, age 48 (USA)

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