It’s easy to see why Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep signed on to “Hope Springs,” even if doesn’t fall into their usual two buckets, as astutely defined by Indiewire — “challenging fare” and “cash-ins.” This is an adult movie, about the kind of clouds that skid across your sunset years; clouds that aren’t always so distant on the horizon, even. It’s a story about marriage as it enters its seemingly inevitable non-sex-having phase. This is both difficult, unhappy territory for a movie, and ocassion for all manner of flick-friendly blue humor. Here, for instance, we see Streep absentmindedly biting into a banana as she ponders a book’s instructions to practice her oral technique on the fruit.
Looking past the clouds, then, the film’s forecast calls for noble life musings with a chance of ribald humor. Wonderful. Except there are some glaring problems. The intelligence-insulting pun implied in the title, for one. Just think of what a porn producer could do with such a labored bit of hand-holding. (“Hope Springs Internal”?) And then there’s Steve Carrell as the sex therapist; can we finally agree that this man’s career has, finally, managed only to reveal him as stiff and awkward, not some master interpreter of the stiff and awkward?
Finally, and most damningly: What is it about this trailer’s insistence that this older couple never learned how to have sex in the first place? They had children, which admittedly doesn’t prove much in real life but in the cinemaverse suggests that they had, if nothing else, a fairly average relationship. Which would mean something more than the odd impregnation. And we’re pretty sure that the filmmakers did not set out to make a movie about a couple that never understood the act. The film’s clearly intended to reach those people concerned about the “spark” going out. And if it can’t appeal to their understanding of sex’s fundamental rewards, then it might as well not bother talking to them about sex at all.