Uni and I recently went to see the movie, Hope Springs starring Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones as Kay and Arnold, a middle aged married couple who had recently celebrated their 31st anniversary by upgrading their cable. Sound boring?
Well yes and no. The boring exterior, as with many “happily” married couples, covers up sad, deeply frustrated lives.
As we see Kay in her night gown gazing at herself in the mirror, fluffing her hair, primping, our first thought is of how attractive she looks. Then we are drawn to the sadness in her eyes. Meryl Streep is a great actor. She portrays a look I’ve seen before on many married women – friends, family, women I’ve counseled, even at times the woman who lives in my house.
She opens the door of Arnold’s bedroom where he lays reading. That’s right, they sleep in separate bedrooms! No not tonight; some excuses I can’t remember.
The movie does not have a complicated plot. It’s a simple story of a married couple who are trying to bring their marriage back to what it should be and once was (or at least she’s trying. No secret affairs. They’ve been “faithful” to one another for 31 years.
Anyway Kay comes across a book on marriage written by a Doctor Feld. She takes her hard-earned savings and purchases reservations for the two for a week’s intensive counseling in the quaint little town of Hope Springs, Maine (where everyone seems to be something of a therapist – the waitress at the café, the bartender, the maître d’ at the restaurant, the clerk at the bookstore – all except the old geezer at the museum.)
Arnold grudgingly goes along, complaining all the while. “Didn’t I buy you a new refrigerator?” “Four thousand dollars for one week! We could have gotten a new roof!” Tommy Lee Jones plays a perfect grump!
As we watch the movie in the theater, there are bits of what sounds like nervous laughter from the audience. There’s enough comic relief to allow this, though I suspect the story is getting a bit too close to home for some.
It took a while for me to get used to seeing Steve Carell as Dr. Feld. We’re used to seeing and hearing him talking seriously, but saying stupid things. But here he’s all seriousness and compassion as he questions and counsels Kay and Arnold. It is here in the counseling room that the truth that by this time we’ve suspected comes out – they haven’t had sex for years. Arnold can’t remember the last time; Kay can. Yet they both want it.
We find that the problem is not all Arnold’s fault (though I felt like shouting at him a few times); Kay has her hang-ups as well.
Some viewers may be uncomfortable with the homework assignments and Kay and Arnold’s efforts to carry them out. Just remember they are married.
The movie does have a happy ending, though I’m not sure how we got there. In fact, we’re never sure till almost the end if it’s going to work out.
I recommend and have recommended this movie to every married couple – especially if you’ve been married for a while. Not that every marriage is in the same shape as Kay and Arnold’s, but it is a possibility that any marriage can go this way. And I suspect that many marriages are moving in this direction. One temptation is to tell ourselves we’re not this messed up; our marriage is a lot better than that. Rather, I think we should look for similarities and seek ways to avoid them, to seek correction before we end up like Kay and Arnold.
And for my Christian friends: no, this is not a “Christian” movie. It is not, as many in that category, a disguised sermon. Don’t go see this movie to find simplistic solutions. You won’t find them here or in any of those preachy movies. Go to see yourselves! And if you don’t see yourselves in this movie, the problem may not be with the movie. It may be with you.