Kay (Streep) and Arnold (Jones) have been married for 31 years. Their daily routines have become just that…routine. Kay rises early to make Arnold’s breakfast (2 eggs and 1 strip of bacon) and watches him go off to work. She has his dinner waiting when he comes home. Then she wakes him up after he’s fallen asleep in front of the television watching the Golf Channel. They sleep in separate bedrooms. Kay longs for the times when Arnold thought of her more as a wife then a roommate. Arnold is clueless, considering his presentation of an expanded cable subscription ideal for their most recent anniversary. At the end of her wits, Kay books her and Arnold into an intensive week-long couples therapy session run by relationship expert Dr. Feld (Carell). Will Arnold join Kay in Maine? And if so, can the spark be rekindled?
Though advertised as a comedy, “Hope Springs” is one of the best dramas to come down the pipe in many years. Written by Vanessa Taylor, a long time television writer (“Alias,” “Game of Thrones”) making her feature screenwriting debut, the film takes a look at the very core of a once loving couple that, due to familiarity and lack of change, has become nothing more then two friends sharing a house. Her script is unfailingly quick to get below the surface of Kay and Arnold’s feelings. That script is helped by a cast that delivers an acting tour de force. Three time Oscar winner Streep is surely on the way to nomination number eighteen! Whether toying with her hair while looking in the mirror, relieving some pressure with a few drinks at a local pub or confronting Arnold face to face, she is incredibly vulnerable and yet strong at the same time. Within five minutes you’re convinced that you’re watching a woman named “Kay” share her story, never an actress playing a role. Of course, that is why Streep will be remembered as the greatest film actress of her generation hundreds of years from now. Jones, an Oscar winner himself, gives a performance that could have gone wrong in the hands of a less capable actor. Yes, Arnold is neglective of his wife and her feelings. But, thanks to Jones performance, you pity him more then loathe him. But the acting surprise here is Carell. He’s given strong performances in the past, most notably in “Dan In Real Life” and last years “Crazy, Stupid, Love.” But here he’s sharply nuanced…there is no sly wink or quick one liner. I look for all three to be recognized by the Academy next year.
Director Frankel, who directed Streep to one of her previous Oscar nominations in “The Devil Wears Prada,” takes his camera inside Kay and Arnold’s lives, allowing the audience to eavesdrop on their most inner thoughts. In doing so, he has created one of the best adult dramas in some time.
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