The billowy studio blurb spouts Hope Springs as a tender, romantic comedy with all the warmth and tenderness of a snuggly cuddle on a cool autumn eve, but don’t be fooled people—this film is about sex. Mature-age people having sex. Grandparents. Which in an open-minded world where such issues are game for discussion, then fine. But when you’re parents are sitting next to you…ew.
Fortunately, the oldies with the sex dilemma in Hope Springs are screen goddess Meryl Streep and Mr Grumpy-Pants Tommy Lee Jones, so I guess if you have to hear it from someone, then it may as well be from two of the most beloved twilighters in Hollywood. Meryl and Tommy play Kay and Arthur, a typically middle-class couple who have raised children, welcomed grandkids, and abandoned the friskiness of youth for the habitualism of near-retirement in suburbia. They have a nice house, nice things—all that’s missing is the grey nomad camper and a reservation on a cruise ship. For Kay, everything is too nice: the torpor within which she and Arthur have slumped feels like an early death. To snap their relationship out of its coma, Maeve turns to relationship guru Dr Bernie Feld (Steve Carell), who helps them reconnect, one position at a time.
As one of the most natural things in the world, sex shouldn’t be a squeamish subject and Hope Springs reminds us that being open about intimacy is imperative at any stage of a marriage. If there is any discomfort here, it is how sex dominates the discourse, as though the key to longevity is physical satisfaction above (on top?) of all. But beneath the mattress of sex chatter, Hope Springs does grope several pertinent, bittersweet themes: the difference between men’s and women’s needs, the ease with which couples can disconnect, and the fragility of spousal love, value, and respect.
Careful location choices—subtly reflecting the psychology of pleasure, where precious memories can linger in cheap motels and opulence doesn’t necessary guarantee satisfaction—and a light pace makes Hope Springs easy on the eye. Appropriately, the delicate issue of sexual ageing is gently tackled with comfort and ease in mind, with Streep and Jones proving that growing old doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t still put in a good performance.
Starring: Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones, Steve Carell, Elizabeth Shue, Mimi Rogers