Omaha suburbanites Kay (Meryl Streep) and Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) have been married for 31 years, and their comfortable Nebraska nest is empty – in more ways than one. Although she timidly ventures from her bedroom to his in an enticing negligee, he’s too engrossed in GOLF magazines to notice; that’s the way it’s been for the past five years. While she yearns for connection, he’s completely closed off.
Working part-time at Coldwater Creek, Kay hears about a week-long couple’s counseling retreat in Great Hope Springs, Maine, that’s hosted by a celebrated pop-psychology therapist. Desperate in her loneliness, she spends $4,000 from her savings to sign them up. Although Arnold, who’s a cheapskate accountant, initially balks, he reluctantly joins her – in body, if not in spirit. So it’s up to Dr. Bernie Feld (Steve Carell) to gently coax them into communicating with each other and re-establishing sexual intimacy.
After honing her expertise on HBO’s sexy couples-therapy drama “Tell Me You Love Me,” Vanessa Taylor’s script is loaded with heart, soul and laughs which director David Frankel handles with the same kind of candid, realistic honesty and intelligence that made his previous collaboration with Streep on “The Devil Wears Prada” so hilarious.
Both Streep and Jones are flat-out fabulous. She imbues Kay with warm determination and aching vulnerability, while Jones’s Arnold is a stubborn, cantankerous curmudgeon who has been stifling his emotions for years and is averse to letting his guard down. (Reportedly, Jeff Bridges originally turned down the part which is how it – luckily – landed in Jones’ lap.)
To his credit, Carell (“The 40-Year-Old Virgin”) plays it not only straight but his calm, compassionate empathy with their nervousness and fear is quite convincing. Elisabeth Shue, Jean Smart and Mimi Rogers also contribute memorable turns.
For locals who may recognize the scenery, Norwalk, Guilford and Stonington, Connecticut, stood in for coastal Maine during the filming last September.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Hope Springs” is a heart-warming, irreverent, uplifting 8, a downright funny, feel-good, romantic comedy/drama for adults.