The Big Screen: Streep, Jones take surprising turns in 'Hope'

By Kevin VaughnSeptember 14, 2012 

Nearly 10 years after Jack Nicholson and Diane Keaton knocked boots onscreen in "Something's Gotta Give," Hollywood is ready for another adult comedy. Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones are two sixty-somethings who have gotten a little too comfortable after 30 years of marriage in "Hope Springs."

It appears that making the same breakfast for her husband day in and day out, busying herself around the house in his absence, and then watching him fall asleep in the recliner isn't getting Kay's blood flowing. Her only real physical contact is when she wakes him from his nightly golf watching so that he goes to bed, in a separate bed. It's not that they argue or can't get along; they've discovered everything about the other, said all that needs to be said.

It is a little jarring to see Streep and Jones in these two characters. Far from the strong female characters Streep normally plays, Kay is weak and accommodating. Jones, far from his equally strong male roles, is a tired, bored (but content) accountant waiting to retire.

Kay's unhappiness reaches its turning point when she picks up a self-help book by Dr. Bernard Feld (Steve Carrell) and buys a weeklong intensive couples therapy with him. She nearly blackmails Arnold into going. Nearly the entire week is filled with uncomfortable therapy sessions -- sometimes delivered with clever dialogue, more often displayed by Kay and Arnold's body language.

Over the course of the week, the couple begins to spill their emotions. The homework proves to be more difficult -- hold hands in bed, rub one another, awkward -- get intimate, are you kidding? Both situations prove funny and meditative.

Streep is a wonder to watch on screen. Director David Frankel took her to maniacal heights in "The Devil Wears Prada." Here she is homey and charming. The real treasure is seeing Jones, a fearless actor, curb his masculinity and play a grumpy, dull and softened man.

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