Sterling performances from Streep, Lee-Jones and Carrell in this funny tale of marriage therapy
Omit the Men In Black trilogy, and there aren’t many films that Tommy Lee Jones has been funny in. The stone-faced Texan looks as if he hasn’t laughed out loud since 1953, but that’s not to say he won’t tickle you in this gentle marital comedy from David Frankel. The director of The Devil Wears Prada (we’ll gloss over the abysmal birdwatching comedy The Big Year and the ultra-saccharine Marley & Me) reunites with his Prada star Meryl Streep, who plays wife Kay to Jones’ husband Arnold.
Married for 31 years, their relationship has gone stale, stultified by routine and a lack of intimacy (they even sleep in separate rooms). Desperate to rectify the situation, Kay persuades Arnold to attend a week-long series of intensive therapy sessions in a quaint coastal town in Maine called Great Hope Springs. Their counsellor is the renowned Dr Feld (Steve Carell), who subjects both to tasks and questions across the days, in the hope of re-igniting their long dormant passions.
Written by first-timer Vanessa Taylor, who aptly honed her skills on the HBO couples therapy drama Tell Me You Love Me, the great joy of the piece is watching Jones’ maddeningly conservative character gradually, almost unwillingly, chip through to that concrete-covered heart of his. Aided by a typically on-form Streep, an ultra-restrained Carell plays his part entirely straight, almost an observer to the comic delights that Hope Springs throws up.
It goes without saying that the film is tailored to older audiences – and it’s refreshing to see a film that examines sexual frustrations and emotional problems felt in a long-term marriage seriously. However, younger viewers shouldn’t merely dismiss this as ‘one for the parents’. There’s much here to enjoy, even if the incessant upbeat soundtrack and picture-postcard locales add a slightly too-jaunty sheen to three fine central performances.
General release from Fri 14 Sep.