Pauls Valley, Oklahoma — There may be no one thing more disturbing for those still in their youth to hear of any sort of intimate relationship between elderly couples. Admittedly those thoughts get a little less squeamish as you approach the age of ew, but anything that falls short of the delivery of “Golden Girls” might need to come with some sort of warning label for the under 35 crowd (Not to say I don’t respect the idea of people still being fond of each other beyond society’s superficial standards).
Today’s subject could have very well entered the territory of terrifying, shared by the likes of Katy Bates hottubbing it in “About Schmidt,” but instead keeps things respectably tolerable and perhaps without the need for mind bleach. A rental shared as my attempt to not shut out all things chick flick, it actually was in many ways enjoyable because of those chosen to portray the lead characters. “Hope Springs” does a decent job of balancing mostly tasteful comedy with a dose of real life struggles and may well be the conversation starter needed for at least a few viewers.
Said relatable plot sets focus on the marriage of Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) and Kay Soames (Meryl Streep), which is to say lacking any real spark since their kids moved on. While on the surface Arnold seems fine with such depressing clichés as having separate bedrooms and no real communication, Kay feels a bit down about the situation and is motivated to do something.
Her eventual answer is to take a marriage counseling vacation of sorts in a Maine coastal town, where they can work out their intimacy problems through talking to a therapist named Dr. Bernie Feld (Steve Carell). From the very beginning the chemistry of the actors in their portrayal of a lack of it provides relatively few moments of viewing discomfort and hilarity, especially how Carrell is able to break from his usual goofy attitude so well, as we see a very true example of how stupidly stubborn we are as a species. Yet, just to make sure a few bucks are made for those wanting a heartwarming ending after it seems all hope is lost at the last moment, stick around and fans of that shouldn’t be disappointed either.
In the end, those who have been there and done that or even just been able to clear hurdles in their own relationships will be able to enjoy this the most. I wouldn’t exactly recommend it for children as it does involve just enough adult discussion to scar 10-year-old Timmy for life, so age definitely helps there.
However, even when things seem like they are getting dirty, it still comes across far above low brow and quick to put things back in a clean perspective. I doubt I’ll ever own a copy, but who knows what’s possible after I hit my next three decades. For what it’s worth, I’d say “Hope Springs” deserves three out of five cures.
DVD rental courtesy of Family Video of Pauls Valley.