Kay and Arnold are a middle-aged couple whose marriage has declined until they are now sleeping in separate rooms and barely interact in any meaningful loving way. Finally, Kay has had enough and finds a book by Dr. Feld which inspires her to sign them up for the Doctor's intense week long marriage counseling session. Although Arnold sees nothing wrong with their 30 year long marriage, he reluctantly agrees to go on the expensive excursion. What follows is an insightful experience as Dr. Feld manages to help the couple understand how they have emotionally drifted apart and what they can do to reignite their passion. Even with the Doctor's advice, Kay and Arnold find that renewing their marriage's fire is a daunting challenge for them both.Written by
Kenneth Chisholm (email@example.com)
This movie marks the second collaboration between Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones. They previously appeared together in A Prairie Home Companion (2006). See more »
Early in the movie, when Kay gives the leaflet to Arnold at the breakfast table, camera angle 1 shows him folding the paper and placing it on the table. Then it cuts to camera angle 2, and Arnold is folding the paper again. See more »
He is everything. But I'm... I'm really lonely. And to be with someone, when you're not really with him can... it's... I think I might be less lonely... alone.
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There is a scene during the end credits. See more »
Hope Springs Eternal for a Marriage That Has Lost Its Way Thanks to Masterful Work from Streep and Jones
When I saw Meryl Streep play the seemingly facile Omaha housewife she portrays in this 2012 marital dramedy, I had an immediate flashback to an underrated romantic drama she did almost thirty years ago, Ulu Grosbard's "Falling in Love" (1984), in which she played a young married woman who couldn't help falling for a married architect (Robert De Niro) on a commuter train. I kept thinking of Kay as that earlier character all these years later trying to fan the embers of the passion that erupted so unpredictably back then. Interestingly, her younger character could not consummate the affair either but fell hopelessly in love anyway. Director David Frankel ("The Devil Wears Prada") and first-time screenwriter Vanessa Taylor travel to the opposite end of the marital spectrum, a 31-year-old marriage that finds Kay and her accountant husband Arnold sleeping in separate bedrooms having long ago lost any sense of intimacy and passion their marriage once had. The film begins with a seriocomic preface in which Kay awkwardly tries to seduce Arnold, an invitation he rebuffs with the flimsiest of excuses. Knowing their marriage is on auto-pilot, she fears being alone emotionally and ending their lives in emotional isolation now as they go through the motions in their sixties.
An optimist despite the odds, Kay signs them up for a week of intensive couples therapy in Great Hope Springs, Maine, where renowned therapist Dr. Bernie Feld practices. Arnold is predictably resistant but begrudgingly accompanies her when he realizes how serious Kay is about the counseling. The sessions with Dr. Feld initially don't go well with Arnold protesting the doctor's every recommendation for building intimacy in his relationship with Kay. This is when the movie becomes the most surprising because every time a physically awkward moment presents itself, the feelings become heartfelt and sometimes humorous in unexpected ways. While Frankel and Taylor handle the slim story turns with genuine insight, it's the masterful work of Streep and Tommy Lee Jones that elevates the film into an experience that far transcends the Lifetime-TV orientation you would expect otherwise. Unafraid to come across as harshly judgmental, Jones has made a career of playing dyspeptic curmudgeons, so it's nice to see him gradually reveal Arnold's vulnerabilities with skill and delicacy. He has to play Arnold close to the vest but not so insular as to make you wonder what Kay saw in him in the first place. After tackling larger-than-life figures like Julia Child and Margaret Thatcher, Streep is splendid portraying a sheltered woman who contributes as much to the fossilized, inchoate marriage as Arnold does.
At 63, the actress allows herself to look even beyond her age, but she's still beautiful in a shopworn way. I love how she almost swallows every word she speaks as if Kay's tentative nature is holding back grand expectations of a romance she can only fantasize about. The two veteran actors have a natural rapport that gives the viewer a rooting interest in seeing them overcome their age-old emotional and physical barriers. There are moments between them especially in the film's last third that are quite heartbreaking, especially when they come to learn that they aren't the people they believed themselves, or each other, to be. Steve Carell plays Feld straight-up without an iota of irony, and his clinical approach works effectively within this context. The rest of the supporting cast makes very little impact, including Jean Smart as Kay's sassy manager at the Coldwater Creek she works part-time, Elisabeth Shue as an equally sassy barmaid counseling Kay on sex, and Mimi Rogers as the final payoff of a joke about a comely (and yes, sassy) neighbor with a trio of corgis. The young actors who play Kay and Arnold's adult children are barely present, but I'm sure that was part of the intention in order to allow complete focus on the couple. Frankel overdoes the soundtrack music when moments of silence would have been far more effective, but otherwise, the tone feels spot-on.
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