The premise of Hope Springs is simple. As IMDb explains: “After thirty years of marriage, a middle-aged couple attends an intense, week-long counseling session to work on their relationship.”
Obviously the couple is the aforementioned Jones and Streep as Arnold and Kay, who’ve fallen into a repetitious rut long after their two grown children moved away. The counselor who helps them work on their relationship is none other than Steve Carell, though you wouldn’t know it from his performance.
Before taking a look at the individual performances, which were superb all around, let me quickly address the story. As you read above, it is a relatively simple situation that no doubt affects hundreds of thousands of couples every year; in fact, I imagine that if my parents were still married, they’d have been in the exact same situation as Arnold and Kay. For anyone that’s been married for an extended period of time, you'll certainly relate to the material.
The story isn’t complicated by nonsense nor is it fluffed. It is merely two people examining their relationship and rediscovering what made them fall in love in the first place. The movie is quiet, and even a little slow at times, but it is honest and pure. It does a marvelous job of showing just how hard it is for some people to talk about the simplest of things, even after years of marriage.
There are some laugh-out-loud moments along the way, but contrary to what you might think, they come from Jones and Streep, not Carell. In fact, the man known for his shtick and antics was subdued and straightforward. He was simply a counselor doing what he does. No backstory, no development, just a helping hand. It was a different type of role for Carell and some of his fans might be disappointed, but the fact of the matter is that he delivered in an uncharacteristic supporting role.
With that said, the real strength of Hope Springs, which is also the name of the town in which they stay for their weeklong counseling session, is watching Jones and Streep work their magic. I grew up watching the former in action films like Under Siege, The Fugitive, and Volcano, so seeing him in dramatic role was a welcomed change of pace.
As much as I hate to admit it, Jones has become an old man, but that made his ruff and tumble persona perfect for this role, especially when you strip away the inherent confidence and swagger you've seen from him in the past. The role of Arnold was originally offered to Jeff Bridges, who is a great actor in his own right, but it wouldn’t have been the same. This role was made for Jones, and in my opinion it was one of his best performances to date.
On the same token, Streep was spot on. Largely considered the greatest living film actress, Streep has a knack for bringing characters to life. She does an amazing job portraying a housewife desperate for change, and what she’s able to say with her body language and facial expressions is nothing short of spectacular. Streep has put in some stunning performances over the years, but from start to finish, her portrayal of Kay in Hope Springs is one of my favorites.
If you’re looking for whirlwind romance or slapstick comedy, this movie isn’t for you. On the other hand, if you’re a fan of fine performances and don’t mind a sincere look at a modest story, then Hope Springs is right up your alley.
Buddies Forever Movie Club Rating: 84%