Film Review Hope Springs
By Rob Horsley | Friday, August 17, 2012
Photo from the Hope Springs movie website.
Are you uncomfortable yet?
Hope Springs, directed by David Frankel (The Devil Wears Prada) is a romantic-comedy starring Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones and Steve Carell, and follows the story of married couple Kay and Arnold Soames (Streep, Jones) for whom the spark has evidently gone out of their marriage. Though Arnold seems distant and in denial that anything is wrong with their relationship, he reluctantly agrees to join Kay for a weeklong counseling retreat in a Maine seaport village, where Dr. Bernie Feld (Carell) is to assess their needs as a couple.
To make a long story short, Bernie recognizes two major problems in Kay and Arnold's marriage: a lack of intimacy brought on by a non-existent sex life, and an unwillingness to communicate about it in a healthy ways, something of which both Kay and Arnold are guilty.
Over the course of Hope Springs, the barriers preventing communication and intimacy are broken down, and Kay and Arnold begin to rekindle what they once saw in each other, before being tested at the film's climax.
In some ways, the whole point I'm trying to make has to do with a disclaimer.
There's no violence whatsoever, and only some very mild foul language. A few scenes are sexual in nature, and feature some (mostly implied) sexual acts, though nothing terribly raw or excessive.
Hope Springs is a movie that countless married Christian couples probably should see, but many simply won't. The movie talks openly about sex, and though there are no graphic depictions of sexuality or scenes of nudity, the conversations between the characters are frank; they are direct; they will make many people uncomfortable.
For those reasons alone, many will skip out seeing a movie that otherwise has some pretty honest things to say about sex within the context of a marriage. For those looking to rant and rave about how the movie is another example of the promiscuous indecency in the Hollywood liberal agendalook somewhere else, because everything discussed in Hope Springs has to do with sex for a devoted but disconnected husband and wife.
Any scene that causes viewers discomfort should be indicative of how uncomfortable the topic can be, and how much it may be in need of personal examination and reflection.
One Christian reviewer asks, "Should such private, marital matters be turned into entertainment?" I'm led to respond in a couple of ways.
Awkward and to the point
The Bible doesn't seem to hold much back in terms of sexual detail. Have any of you actually read the Old Testament? I'm always led to wonder why such passages were deemed important enough to be included in the biblical text, but similar topics are something that 'good Christians' simply don't talk about.
Christians are expected to have sex, and not just the kind limited to that whole go forth and multiply bit. But it seems unclear just how we're supposed to get to that point without some sort of verbal communication.
Honest communication is difficult. Talking about sex is uncomfortable. I'm willing to wager that if entertainment doesn't talk about it, we're probably not going to talk about it either. Regardless of how much things could or even should change, there's always more momentum for things to stay exactly the same.
And that's where Hope Springs finds its movie muscle: Kay and Arnold refuse to talk about how unfulfilled they are in their marriage (which statistics prove can be directly correlated to a poor sex life), which drives the plot of the film.
Regardless of how many Christian marriages are internally screaming for someone, anyone to initiate some 'honest-to-God' open talk about sex (a subject that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt is relevant to Christian married couples as much as anyone), many simply won't because it's too uncomfortable.
The funny thing is though, Hope Springs shows the direct consequences of open communication being too uncomfortable. All of their problems come as a direct result of being too afraid to name the elephant in the room and say to the other "I'm not happy." And in this case, as is the case for many, sex is the elephant.
If Hope Springs gets even one Christian husband-and-wife talking openly about the issues that they're dealing with in their marriage, I think you can say that the movie succeeds. To be sure, these are indeed private matters to be sorted out within the privacy of a marriage, and with God at the centre, as always. But a ten-mile hike begins with one step, a step that many simply refuse to make.
Even great marriages may have bad years. It's hard to get that message across in a movie that's less than two hours long, but that doesn't make it any less true.