Mike Nichols has tackled marital dysfunction through his career from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966) to Closer (2004). His name is attached to Hope Springs but for some reason he stepped out and replaced by David Frankel. He makes it into a dramedy in the mold of his past movies, such as The Big Year, The Devil Wears Prada and Marley & Me.
Hope Springs is about a couple, Kay (Meryl Streep) and Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones), who are married for 31 years. They sleep in separate bedrooms as their kids have already moved out of the house. The spark has already been distinguished in their relationship and as a last resort, they go on an intensive couples counseling in the two of Great Hope Springs, Maine. Arnold agrees to re-examine their marriage under the supervision of Dr. Bernie Feld (Steve Carell).
Hope Springs focuses on the therapy sessions, which looked like they were patterned from screenwriters Vanessa Taylor’s HBO series Tell Me You Love Me. The couple talks about their fond memories, fantasies, and frustrations, which leads to funny scenes.
Some of the resolutions of the problems are more convenient than believable but Hope Springs manages to tackle adult concerns rather than introduce a third party as a problem. Arnold and Kay seem to have solved their differences inside Dr. Feld’s office but once they step out of it, their attitudes towards sex feel old-fashioned.
Kay doesn’t like to buy self-help books and Arnold complains about the small-town price gouging. It is funny to place the old couple in unfamiliar situations and the filmmakers didn’t have to use American Pie-like humor to get laughs from the moviegoers.
Hope Springs has its share of good and bad moments. It is just like the marriage of Kay and Arnold, once they try to solve their differences, the harder it is to enjoy.