A light weight, coffee table sex comedy that's filled out with slumming Hollywood heavyweights.
It’s tough to escape the idea that you’ve seen Hope Springs before. Kay (Meryl Streep) and Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) are a couple in their mid-sixties who journey to a remote seaside town in the hope that intensive couples counsellor, Dr Feld (Steve Carell), will be able to restore some degree of intimacy to their failing marriage. Like 2009’s It’s Complicated (also starring Streep), it feels too much like a by-the-numbers rom-com whose sole twist is that its central characters are old.
And there’s lots of sex, too. From trysts in the pair’s unromantic ‘Econolodge’ to the painfully uncomfortable therapy sessions with Feld (which cover threesomes with the neighbour, blowjobs and eye contact during sex), Hope Springs is admirable in the way it doesn’t shy away from the fact that people of all ages and stripes get physical. Occasionally, the resulting comedy is both humourous and believable, with Streep and Jones convincing and charming as the gruff, sexually awkward couple with issues as real as the crevices on their faces.
The problem is that middle-aged libido difficulties aren’t as taboo as director David Frankel clearly thinks. We all know that marriages can become flat after 31 years, and we are all aware that patching things up isn’t as simple as enrolling on a week of couples’ exercises in the sticks. The film thus loses its way in the second half, especially when Carell trades his wisecracking for sappy earnestness and actually trying to fix Kay and Arnold’s relationship. It becomes clear where the plot is headed as we’re hurtled clumsily away from the merry slapstick towards an unsatisfactory ‘happy’ ending.
It’s another disappointing offering from the director of The Devil Wears Prada and Marley & Me. What on paper must have appeared refreshing and new turns out to be cloying and hackneyed on screen. Kay and Arnold are an older, wiser and more complex couple than Hope Springs allows them to be. But, as it is, we’ve definitely seen these people and their peccadillos before.
A sex comedy for older couples sounds great, if a little cringey.
It’s the slapstick that makes this movie rather than the sentimental, and there isn't enough of it.
Mildly diverting, but far from either of its lead actors’ best.