HT Schuyler: Hope Springs Review

Posted: August 21, 2012 by htschuyler in HT Schuyler's Movie Reviews

Rated 14A for mature themes and sexuality.

Directed by: David Frankel.

Starring: Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones, Steve Carell and Elisabeth Shue.

Hope Springs is about a husband and wife whos marriage has fallen apart, so in an attempt to fix their lives they go to “Intensive Couples Counseling” in a small town in Maine called GreatHopeSprings where they argue, bond and feel awkward about sex. Will there marriage be saved? Can they fix what is broken? Will you even care by the end of the movie? Well, let’s take a look…

Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) and his wife Agent Kay (Meryl Streep) live a normal life in their house in the suburbs. Every morning Kay cooks Arnold breakfast, he goes off to work, he comes home to a nice dinner that Kay has cooked for him, he watches TV while she does the dishes and the two of them go off to bed in their separate bedrooms. Kay is not happy. She feels their marriage is falling apart, and seeks out the help of a couples counselor in Maine named Dr. Field (Steve Carell). Despite Arnold’s distaste of the idea, the two of them head out for their week long counseling session. During their “intensive” treatment the two of them express their feelings, share their fantasies and act awkward whenever Dr. Field talks about sex. A movie like this that is not action heavy or particularly visually interesting relies solely on the chemistry between the leads, and I must say Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep acted very well off each other. The two really feel like an old married couple; they bicker, they argue, but at the end of the day you still get the feeling that they care about each other and that they do want to make their marriage work. Each of them goes through their own personal growth and development, and you get to see these veteran actors really show what they’ve got, which is really nice. I’m not saying the performances are award winning or anything, I’m just saying their talent makes their characters that much deeper and complex. Then there’s Steve Carell. Now, I really like Steve Carell, and I think he’s a very talented actor, but he may as well have been played by a brick in this movie. He spends almost the entire movie sitting in a chair drinking coffee, and says his lines very monotone and void of emotion. This isn’t so much Carell’s fault as it is the fault of the writing, because his character is completely one dimensional and far from interesting. Also it didn’t help that every time he mentions sex he has a creepy grin on his face. Elisabeth Shue has a really random cameo, she plays a bar maid that stands there and tells Meryl Streep that most people in the town aren’t having sex, and then the scene changes and she’s gone for the rest of the movie. Her cameo is far from glorified.

The Good:

Despite the films attempt at raunchy humour, the movie is very sweet, and I actually found myself caring for the couple’s relationship, and hoping it would succeed. The movie has some genuinely funny scenes and the two leads play really well off each other. There are some really sweet scenes with a lot of heart that make you care that much more for the couple, and I won’t spoil the ending, but it was really charming and satisfying. The direction is also quite good, and the atmosphere is gray and depressing, in contrast to the couples marriage.

The Bad:

Contrary to what I initially thought when entering the theatre, this movie is actually more of a drama than a comedy, or a dramady, because despite there being some very funny scenes, there was a lot of drama, which is fine, except it made the comedy scenes feel a little out of place. For example, there is a scene where Steve Carell is explaining to Tommy Lee Jones that if he doesn’t save his marriage soon, he will lose Kay for good, a pretty heavy scene, and then a few scenes later we see Kay practicing giving oral sex to a banana…kind of unsettling. That leads me to probably the films biggest flaw: every comedy aspect is built around the idea of two old people feeling awkward about sex. There’s a HILARIOUSLY awkward scene where Steve Carell is pressuring Kay to tell him about her sexual fantasies, and Kay feels very uncomfortable about this. Funny, right? No. If Steve Carell was sitting across from me staring me in the eye asking me about my sexual fantasies I’d feel pretty damn awkward too. There are only so many jokes you can make about old people and sex, and to be honest few of them are particularly funny. It could be argued that I don’t find it funny because I can’t relate to it, and that is (luckily) very true, so there you go. If you think old people and sex and funny topics, go see this movie.

In Conclusion:

This movie has a lot of charm, heart and good acting to make it not a total waste of time, and I’d be lying if I said that not a part of me enjoyed it. As tedious and sometimes unnecessary the scenes about sex are, they are often followed by a nice scene with Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep that would win me over again, which in a way made it worth it. It’s far from one of the year’s best, but it’s far from the worst. See it if you’re interested, if not ignore it.


  1. This is a better movie than youre giving it credit for HT. Older people having sex IS funny. Not because of the idea of old people having sex is funny, but because a discomfort grows up around the idea as people let that part of their life slide… exploring that is funny here.

    I agree that the dramatic balance may be unfortunately titlted in favor of the drama though. :(

    Still a wonderful little film with three great performances. Carell played a wonderful shrink. Thats… how they… are. I dont know what your expectations for that character would have been, I thought he was excellent.

    • htschuyler says:

      I suppose I am being a little harsh, but I’m glad you liked it. My main dislike for it is simply that it’s not something I found enjoyable, be it that I couldn’t relate to it or that I just didn’t personally see the point in it. I do realize that an older generation will love it and be able to relate to it, but someone like me…not so much. I do think it’s a good movie, my rating just reflects my own feelings.

      As for Carell, I think he’s an incredibly talented actor who creates great and interesting characters, so it wasn’t so much his performance but the character itself. I don’t see why you would cast someone as versatile as Carell to play such a dull character. For what it’s worth he did a fine job.

  2. CMrok93 says:

    Good review HT. This one really took me by surprise by how involved I was with this relationship but then again, it was Jones and Streep playing them so I can’t be all that surprised.

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