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Hope Springs is warm and fuzzy funny

Paul Peterson

Part of my process for writing this column involves reading a couple of other reviews, doing some research, tracking down some trivia and then putting words on a page. It amazes me how much of a drop off there is when there isn’t a review by Roger Ebert I don’t even know who the next one down the line is. I sometimes find gems from online places but the lack of cogent entertaining criticism available is not exactly stellar. Present company excluded. I’m just saying.
Hope Springs stars Meryl Streep as Kay and Tommy Lee Jones as Arnold. They’ve been married 30 years and as BB King once sang, the thrill is gone. They haven’t had sex in a very long time and haven’t even slept in the same bed for years.
As the beginning of the film Kay awkwardly tries to initiate a return to intimacy with less than magnificent results. She books them into a one week retreat-therapy camp in Great Hope Springs Maine.

There we meet Dr. Fields (Steve Carell) who is willing to help if they really want it and man oh man does Arnold ever not want it.
It’s funny, charming and occasionally painful. As someone who practiced family counselling for a lot of years, I was impressed with how thoughtful and accurate the therapy sessions were. |From Arnold’s anger and resistance, and passive aggressive responses, to Kay’s ongoing nervous energy and need to take care of everyone.
I was always amazed at how many couples fall into celibacy without so much as a word between them. It really does just happen, one thing leads to another and the next thing you’re sitting in a therapist’s office trying to figure out where it all went south. In truth, most don’t end up in therapy. They either disappear into oblivion or push it deeper. Or divorce.
This is a very funny Hollywood movie so that’s not going to happen. I’m sure you can imagine the outcome. It’s not really central to the review because the best part of this film is the journey through therapy and the performance by the big 3.

There are a few minor roles here. I always like Jean Smart no matter what she’s in, but this is a three-person show and really just 2. Tommy Lee is larger than life. It’s not often that Streep disappears on screen but he really does own Arnold and plays it straight funny and exasperated with a deft touch. I thought he was looking terrible in MIB3 but he’s spot on here.
Streep gets the biggest laughs here and there are some very funny moments. Laugh out loud hand to the mouth moments.
She’s a very gifted comedic actress with impeccable timing and we want her to do well. We care about her a lot more than Arnold, but we want him to be a better guy so she’s happy. It’s an interesting convergence.
I think Steve Carell is one the most gifted and funny actors in film today. I was slow to warm to the Office but now think it’s almost as brilliant as Seinfeld. He plays this thoughtfully, understanding that he’s the guy doing all the heavy lifting.

I really like this movie.
It’s funny and falls into all the warm and fuzzy parts of a romantic comedy but more than that, it’s real and it has heart.
It gets it right and doesn’t filter through some of the real pain and awkwardness for a quick laugh.
I knew I’d like Hope Springs, I just didn’t realize how much. It’s not going to find a home with the Adam Sandler crowd, and it really was a whitehead convention opening weekend but that’s ok. These are my people and we deserve an adult comedy once in awhile.
As always, other opinions are welcome, but wrong. That’s it for this week. The cheque’s in the mail and I’m outta here. Paul

Filed Under: News from Everywhere ElsePaul Peterson

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