Hope Springs" is yet another PG- 13 film that should have been rated R. It is filled with mature, graphic sex talk (and visuals). It's almost a sex farce, but actually more of a tragicomedy. Definitely for adults.
Kay (the superlatively fabulous Meryl Streep) and Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones in his best role ever?) are empty-nesters in a relationship with barely a pulse. Arnold appears to be satisfied with things as they are, but Kay is determined that things must change. She signs them up for an intensive couples-counseling week with Dr. Feld (a serious Steve Carell). Years of built-up "scar tissue" needs to be acknowledged, articulated, removed. It's one step forward and two steps backward.
There's an "any kind of sex" within marriage goes ethos (even though this is a pretty conservative couple). Aside from the approval and occasional followthrough of fast and loose sexual mores within marriage, a deep connection is otherwise maintained between the couples' physical intimacy and emotional intimacy, without which the marriage is just a "marriage license" and a sharing of bills to be paid.
Both intimacies must come alive again in a Kay and Arnold way. In a theology of the body way, men and women have different needs, and even as mousy Kay "initiates" the initial action, it's Arnold, the bridegroom, who must sweep her off her feet again or risk losing her forever.
The genius of this film is that there are no big events, no big reveals, no deep, dark secrets. There are no harsh words, no screaming, no throwing things, no ultimatums. The increments of dramatic movement are small and organic. Simple, linear A-story progression. How do you get the magic back? And what if one partner is less willing than the other to even try?
As wonderful as Meryl Streep is, this is Tommy Lee Jones' movie all the way. His delivery and timing is beyond perfect.
This film may help those in troubled marriages to realize their marriage is definitely worth working on with everything they've got. And the road will be rocky for both sides.
This film screams: Nothing, nothing is more important than a marriage. Your marriage. Marriage.
Burns is a Daughter of St. Paul.