There is no greater joy than a man’s love for his wife; no greater beauty than the woman in his life.
“Hope Springs” puts these virtues to a real test in an artful but nearly painful fashion.
The movie wants us to believe that mid-life of an otherwise nice couple creates indifference and benign neglect to the point of overwhelming inertia.
It takes us to a place where there is doubt everywhere.
And then, there is hope.
The story is of Kay (Meryl Streep) and Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones), a couple of 31 years, living in upscale Omaha. Kay is woeful because their lives are rapidly diverging — they rarely talk, they don’t hug or kiss, they sleep in separate rooms. Arnie is a world-class grouch. So Kay schedules a week of marriage counseling with a noted psychologist, Dr. Feld (Steve Carrell), in the small town of Great Hope Springs, Maine.
With this cast and circumstances you might assume good natured whimsy.
There is anything but.
It is, instead, an often gut-wrenching search for how and where we find what we most value in busy lives. Carrell’s Dr. Feld is a surprisingly strong lightening rod for the gruff, reticent Arnold and the more willing, emotional Kay.
Good people move apart, comfortably so at times, but not destructively, nor without the ability to overcome self-consciousness to save a lifetime of common interests. The movie asks — and answers — where has the joy gone?
The answer comes, but not without colossal anxiety.
“Hope Springs” has a small, excellent cast and the movie zips right along. It is straightforward without being clichéd.
Watching Jones, in particular, struggle with all the pain and conventions and love he never knew existed, nor could articulate, is worth seeing several times over.
Jim Wigge is a retired engineer, Cazenovia resident and film-aficionado, who reviews movies for the Cazenovia Republican. He can be reached through the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.