Anita Casey-Reed
 
 
    
 
This film image released by Columbia Pictures shows Meryl Streep as Kay Soames, left, and Tommy Lee Jones as Arnold Soames in a scene from "Hope Springs." (Associated Press)
 
 

 
This film image released by Columbia Pictures shows Meryl Streep as Kay Soames in a scene from "Hope Springs." (Associated Press)
 
 

Change is hard. Anyone who has resolved to become healthier or happier knows how difficult it is to pull out of the ruts created by years of routine. Now, imagine you want to make your marriage healthier. Add a spouse who doesn't see anything wrong with how things are now. This is the predicament facing Kay (Meryl Streep) in the 2012 film "Hope Springs."

After decades of fixing the same breakfast every morning for her husband Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones), having the same daily conversations and watching him fall asleep in front of the TV every night, Kay decides to take action. She discovers the works of Dr. Feld (Steve Carrell) at the local bookstore and preemptively books a week-long marathon marriage counseling session with the author in the town of Hope Springs, dragging the reluctant Arnold along.

To be honest, when this film came out last summer, I had no desire to see it in the theater. The trailers and posters seems to promise one of those dismal comedies where the presumed hilarity was coming from the premise of (gasp) OLD PEOPLE talking about S-E-X and finding themselves in various wacky situations. Advertisements are there to sell the movie, but in this case, they sold the movie short.

Instead of outlandish characters and their antics, the funny moments -- and the heartfelt ones -- in "Hope Springs" come from the recognizability of the characters and what they are going through. Kay and Arnold's issues are relatable in a way that most movie romance issues are not. The distance between them is not because of a single dramatic event or a misunderstanding that can be cleared up in two seconds -- it's all the small choices they've made over the years to be silent, to do the usual thing, to do what was expected. It's only when someone else asks them to explain the actions do they realize how much of their lives have been on autopilot.

It's unfortunate that director David Frankel relies so heavily on montages set to songs that tell exactly what the character is thinking, because that seems completely unnecessary when you have actors onscreen the caliber of Streep and Jones. Watch how they take Vanessa Taylor's dialogue in the counseling scenes and invest phrases like "You know" or "I don't know" with inflections that show so much history between them, or how they use body language to convey hope or disappointment so fluidly. The performances are what make this worth seeing.

"Hope Springs" is not perfect, but it is an interesting film because of its perspective that real change in a marriage is achievable, but not easy. People will try, and sometimes fail, but the real failure is only when they stop trying to make their life together better. Anita Casey-Reed is a member of the Cinema 100 Film Society and co-hosts "Reel Retro" on Dakota Media Access. She lives in Bismarck with her husband and two children.



 
Anita Casey-Reed is a member of the Cinema 100 Film Society, a volunteer for the Dakota Digital Film Festival. She lives in Bismarck with her husband and two children.