Reviewed by: Scott Brennan
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 Streep … Kay
Tommy Lee Jones … Arnold
Steve Carell … Dr. Feld
Jean Smart … Eileen, Kay’s Friend
Ben Rappaport … Brad, Their Son
|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 marriage—sex 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.