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HOPE SPRINGS (director: David Frankel; screenwriter: Vanessa Taylor; cinematographer: Florian Ballhaus; editor: Steven Weisberg; music: Theodore Shapiro; cast: Meryl Streep (Kay), Tommy Lee Jones (Arnold), Steve Carell (Dr. Feld), Brett Rice (Vince), Mimi Rogers (Carol), Elisabeth Shue (Karen), Jean Smart (Eileen), Ben Rappaport (Brad), Marin Ireland (Molly), Damian Young (Mike); Runtime: 100; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Todd Black/Guymon Casady; Columbia Pictures, Mandate Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures; 2012)

It seems more like attending a sex therapy session than a movie.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Director David Frankel (“The Big Year”/”Marley and Me”/”The Devil Wears Prada“), son of the former NY Times executive editor Max, in an incurious fashion helms this dull formulaic domestic dramedy. It seems more like attending a sex therapy session than a movie. It’s written by Vanessa Taylor, who provides no surprises, no enlightening pronouncements on how to save a marriage and its efforts at comedy are strained. I found it interminable and bland.

A mid-life crisis between inattentive tax accountant hubby Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) and his long-suffering wife Kay (Meryl Streep), who tries to save her comfortable but passionless 31-year marriage, that saw the couple raise two grown children, by getting her negative and grumpy hubby to attend in the picturesque tourist-trap small-town of Great Hope Springs, Maine, an expensive one-week therapy workshop run by self-help author psychologist Dr. Feld (Steve Carell). The problem in the marriage is that there’s no sex, and the sex guru therefore gives the anguished couple exercises to turn each other on again to rekindle the marriage. Unfortunately the wife is receptive but the hubby unreceptive.

The director takes things adult serious and takes us in detail through their counseling sessions, avoiding any cheesy comments about their sexual problem. The drama is substituted for an infomercial for self-help professionals, who supposedly deserve to earn their large fees by giving their patients a good talking to about marital obligations in the bedroom and the therapist’s sound advice should be enough to get the marriage back on the right track, unless the marriage was never meant to be. Even Dr. Freud never made such boasts about his ability to save middle-class marriages. Rather than convincing me of the powers of therapy, the manipulative sitcom film became grating and turned me off by its hard sell and inability to have any depth in pushing further the boundaries it tepidly crossed and peeked at without going further. Watching Streep and Jones emote together for the first time onscreen was not enough of a recommendation to see a film that was so lacking in energy and was so schematic.


Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”