At times, a poignantly realistic portrait of a marriage that lost its carbonation at the twenty-fifth anniversary bench mark; two individuals, strangers, who have built fortresses around their inadequacies, insecurities, sleeping in separate bedrooms, barely acknowledging each other’s existence. “Kay” (another fine performance by Meryl Streep) recognizes the size of the crater separating her from the man she married and thinks she still loves, “Arnold” (Tommy Lee Jones, a problematic performance, partially redeemed midway), a curmudgeon, accountant, whose wife is at best a mirage, who prepares, surfaces at mealtimes. Arnold is so obtuse and surly it was a challenge to imagine what she saw in him thirty plus years ago. The movie commences on their thirty-first wedding anniversary; sad, saccharine, pathetic non-celebration. “Hope Springs” is more tragic than comedic.
Kay initiates “couples therapy”, she is being strangled by loneliness, loss of intimacy; she is aware of her ageing visage, staring wistfully in the mirror, but not without optimism, at the woman she has become; is she unworthy of love, communication, companionship? Hope, expectation, initiates with Kay. She plans a week in the small town of “Great Hope Springs”, Maine, under the tutelage of psychiatrist, Dr. Feld ( a bland, benign but sincere, Steve Carell) hoping for a miracle (along with the audience) to ignite a spark, a plea for rejuvenation; a longing for the delicious absent flavor of remembered passion; a passion that should have been savored, nurtured, instead of starved, shunned, ignored for years.
We live in a milieu where there is constant bombardment, advertisements, for chemical aids, enhancements for potency, intimacy; we see smiling couples, “seizing the moment”; the darker side are the multitudes of dysfunctional marriages, relationships, living in dehydrated vacuums, lacking the gumption to correct, fight for revival, attentiveness in their partner; settling in a murky, mundane aura of stagnation, ennui. Kay at one point sates she would be less lonely, if she were alone; she had aspirations, spunk, courage.
“Hope Springs” exceeds boundaries and one’s comfort level in unearthing unspoken fantasies, needs; it is a compelling lesson for all marriages, partnerships; there should be a cherished vitrine in one’s heart where the loved one remains wrinkleless, sagless, perfectly -sighted, joyously, profoundly flawless as the first moment you knew…this is love.