I am a single, 67 year old retiree, who has been married and divorced twice; and this movie really touched me. It acted as a sort of cinematic mirror to prompt me to reflect upon the many daily choices, or even finer gradations of volition, that make up a healthy or dysfunctional marriage or relationship of any kind. The movie was about how we create our own heaven or hell, in the house, in the kitchen, in the bedroom, and in life. We lose our grip on our passionate love affairs almost the way that dust slowly collects on the floor. Didn't I just vacuum that dust yesterday? That is how a marriage can ossify, degrade itself, as if consciousness itself were shot full of some sort of novocaine by sneaky subtle injections over the years, one feeling at a time numbed.
Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones and Steve Carrell are excellent and break new emotional and acting ground for all three master actors.
The movie made me think about my entire life, and it made me reflect upon my parents' marriage, too.
Tommy Lee Jones' portrayal of Arnold, a man who has been an accountant so long he can simply function on automatic with his customers, not really giving his passionate self to his business- or his marriage, ran the gamut from acceptance of various ruts to various kinds of rage, embarrassment, and stubbornness, refusal to drop his pride, or make compromises that would have been in the best interests of himself, his wife and the marriage.
The camera does not editorialize. It shows Arnold falling asleep watching golf instruction on television. The camera directly above the frying pan and close up, depicts Meryl Streep's Kay, sizzling a strip of bacon and one sunny side up egg for Arnold every day, day after day. He eats his breakfast with his back to her as he reads the paper, then gets up, every day, and gives her a peck on the check without even making eye contact, and he's off to work again- like an unemotional little engine that could.
When Sisyphus pushed that boulder up to the top of the hill, his punishment by the gods, he had to watch it roll back down to the bottom of the hill whereupon, he repeated this process - for eternity. But Sisyphus smiled - at least according to Albert Camus, he smiled. It occurred to me that relationships and marriages devolve into accommodations, and that passion, like air being spent out the tiny leaks in a worn tire, can evanesce before either party truly, deeply realizes what they are doing, what they have done. The smiles in this movie are forced, automatic, defensive, painful. Boulders are not openly acknowledged.
In this movie, every scene is slightly underplayed. No line or gesture is over the top. Almost every word of dialogue is realistic. I never felt that I was being lectured or preached to. I did think that the background music was too intrusive several times, however, almost as if someone did not trust Meryl Streep to carry the emotional load of the scene - an error of judgement. This movie needed no such authorial or directorial intrusion - That is my only criticism.
"Hope Springs" is a movie about the ingredients of happiness or lack of same, and the finesse of the actors, the director, the cinematographer and the editors is magnificent. They never stooped to dwell on any sort of cliche dialogue or acting flourishes. It was believable.
I felt that the movie really opened up my life. I wish I had seen it 45 years ago when I married for the first time. It is that good.