David Frankel’s Hope Springs is a sweet film about two people whose marriage has gotten stuck in a rut. They sleep in separate rooms, hardly say a word to each other, and have even stopped touching each other. The passion has completely left their relationship, which, after 31 years, they seem to have taken for granted, or perhaps they never even bothered to notice as they settled down to their normal routine.
Kay (Meryl Streep) has certainly begun to notice, even if her husband Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) hasn’t. Every day it’s basically the same thing. She wakes up, cooks her husband the same old breakfast before he heads off to work, goes to her job at a clothing store, comes home, fixes dinner, then goes to bed. She finally decides to take the initiative by getting them some marriage counseling, but first, she must convince Arnold to come along, which is not an easy task given that he feels it to be completely unnecessary.
However, she eventually persuades him, causing them both to fly to Maine to seek the help of Dr. Feld (Steve Carell), a well-known psychiatrist who is said to be quite knowledgeable in the area of fixing marriages. Through their sessions with him, they begin to open up to each other and mention things that might have forever gone unsaid had they not decided to give counseling a try. Meanwhile, Dr. Feld assigns them exercises to do with each other that he hopes will help bring them back together after being emotionally distant for so long.
What ends up making Hope Springs a successful film are the performances from the three leads. Three-time Oscar winner Meryl Streep brings great determination and vulnerability to a character who’s realized that something must be done to fix her ailing marriage. Oscar winner Tommy Lee Jones likewise does a wonderful job with a very interesting character arc. At first, he’s completely opposed to getting help, though he does eventually try it out, but even then, he seems to fight Dr. Feld at every turn.
Then there’s Steve Carell as the psychiatrist. Most people know Carell as a goofy comic actor who’s appeared in such projects as The Office, Get Smart, and The 40-Year-Old Virgin. With Hope Springs, he’s playing a very serious character who’s not joking around. In fact, this is probably the most serious character I’ve seen him play since Little Miss Sunshine. He, like Streep and Jones, still get laughs, but none of them seem to be trying at all, which is quite refreshing, and is also a sign that the actors know exactly what they are doing and where the humor is coming from.
This film is all about awkward humor. From the very start, we notice Kay’s and Arnold’s routine, where they go about hardly saying anything to each other and seeming not to notice that there’s something seriously wrong. It gets even more awkward when Kay tries to point it out to Arnold, who still refuses to believe that anything is wrong.
It doesn’t stop there though, as when they start having sessions with Dr. Feld, whose straightforward, but very personal questions, catch Arnold off-guard, things continue to get more and more awkward, especially when the couple try their exercises in their hotel room and a movie theater (which is ironically playing The Dinner Game, a hilarious film that was remade as Dinner for Schmucks just a couple of years ago and starred Carell).
The screenplay was written by Vanessa Taylor and is her first feature film. She had previously only written for shows like Alias and Game of Thrones, the latter of which is currently one of the best shows on TV. It takes quite a bit of skill to be able to make scenes that merely consist of three people sitting and talking into something engaging, but through her intriguing dialogue, she is able to do just that.
Hope Springs ends up being a good mixture of comedy and drama that is touching and entertaining. The only complaint that I have is that the third act felt a little stretched out and could have used a little editing to make it tighter. However, the performances are more than enough to offset this one problem. When you have actors this good playing a married couple, how could anything go wrong?
Now let’s turn to the disc itself. The film is presented in a 1080p, 2.40:1 transfer of excellent quality. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is a little on the soft side, but is still very lucid and clear. This may be a small comedy/drama, but the quality in both these departments is quite good.
As for special features, it comes with the following:
- Commentary with Director David Frankel
- Gag Reel
- An Intimate Look at Making Hope Springs
- An Expert’s Guide to Everlasting Passion
- The Doctor Is In: Steve Carell on Dr. Feld
- Inside the Perfect Marriage: Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones
- The Passionate Performer
- Alternate Takes Gallery
This may seem like a lot of special features, but unfortunately there isn’t really a lot to them. The two that are most worth taking a look at are the “Making of” featurette and the commentary by Director David Frankel. The former gives you some interesting information about the film and how it was made, though it doesn’t go into much depth, while a sampling of the latter shows that Frankel likes to discuss the characters.
The other featurettes are rather short and pointless. There’s an expert discussing marriage, Carell talking a little about his character, Streep and Jones briefly discussing their characters, and a featurette devoted to everyone saying how great Meryl Streep is. As if we needed a whole featurette to let us know how brilliant an actress she is.
Overall, Hope Springs is a sweet and funny film, featuring wonderful performances from the leads, but it also has a nice emotional touch to it. It comes to Blu-Ray in great quality, and despite the somewhat disappointing special features, it’s worth taking a look at.
This review is based on a copy of the Blu-Ray that we received for reviewing purposes.