Hope Springs is a return to the classic romance.
Seasoned actors Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep play a long-married couple who have reached apathetic levels. Arnold (Jones) is content to live an uneventful life; Kay (Streep) longs to rekindle the romance and enrolls the couple in a clinic offered by Dr. Feld (Steve Carell) in the New England hamlet of Great Hope Springs.
There was a time when the romance genre was dominated by veteran actors: Doris Day, Cary Grant, Tom Hanks, Rock Hudson. When they talked about love and loss, their pain and happiness came from a deep place defined and refined over the passing years.
Hope Springs shows that Jones and Streep are about as emotionally deep as you can get.
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Director David Frankel had the good sense to realize that with these stars, the best thing to do was step back and let them transform themselves into their multi-dimensional characters. It's easy to believe that these two people are at a serious emotional crossroads in their lives. You can see Streep's terror and Jones' confusion.
Watching these acting giants work together is a reminder that movies about love do not have to be driven by hormones and are best when the heart's in charge. The changes these characters make feels honest, something that so often eludes younger actors.
Outside the two stars, Frankel's film has some problems. The casting of Carell as the therapist was not a wise choice. He plays the role seriously, but there's always that disconcerting feeling he'll slip in some unwanted comedy. There are also places and people introduced that never fully pay off.
These flaws aren't big enough to distract from the acting clinic put on by Jones and Streep. When you cast these actors in a love story, it means never having to say you are sorry.