Some people are fond of saying that age is just a number. But for some couples, age just makes you numb. This is essentially the starting point of director David Frankel’s film Hope Springs, written by Vanessa Taylor (Game of Thrones), about a long-married couple, Kay and Arnold (Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones), who have lost their spark over the years.
“Kay wants to reconnect with her husband, Arnold,” Streep explains. “She wants to feel connected, to feel intimately involved with him, to feel that he’s intimately interested in her. But I think Arnold, if you asked him, wouldn’t think anything was a problem at all. If you were asking him where they are in their marriage, he’d say, ‘I don’t know — about the middle.’”
The solution, for Streep’s character, is to spirit them away for couples therapy in Great Hope Springs, Maine, at a sort of spa for those having marital trouble. There, they seek the assistance of psychiatrist Dr. Feld (Steve Carell). “She wants to shake things up — she wants to reconnect with Arnold in a way that they had been connected in their earlier years,” Streep says. “She’s on a search — she feels this dissatisfaction, and she’s looking for answers, and finds it in Dr. Feld’s book. It’s not long before she’s using her own money to book a trip to his therapy retreat in Maine.”
For Taylor, in writing the script for Hope Springs, the universally appreciated conceit of a story about people trying to fall back in love wasn’t so easily realized. “I haven’t been married, but I’ve certainly been in relationships where a distance built up,” Taylor offers. “I was shocked to find how difficult it was to cross back over. It seems like somehow you should be able to bridge that divide. That was part of what motivated me to write this — I wanted to know if these people could get back.”
In figuring out whether Hope Springs could help get Kay and Arnold back together, Taylor couldn’t rely on the talent of the players — in this case the considerable talents of Streep, with her record number of Academy Award nominations and numerous wins, as well as veteran and fellow Oscar winner Jones. She had to do some homework herself. “I had been thinking about marriage and how people keep passion and sexuality in a long-term marriage,” she recalls. “I’d been doing some reading on that and on marital counseling. And I started thinking, ‘What would it be like to try to get your spark back if you never quite had it to start with?’ — especially from a woman’s point of view; if you weren’t comfortable with yourself and your sexuality, how much courage would it take to step forward and say, ‘Our marriage is fine, but it’s not good enough. I want more. I deserve better.’”
Hope Springs is available on Video On Demand starting Dec. 4. Check your cable system for availability.
Photo: © 2012 GHS Productions, LLC. All Rights Reserved.