MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Photo By Sony Pictures
Directed by David Frankel. Starring Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones
The recent box-office success of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel demonstrated that there is a market for well-acted films that focus on the romantic relationships of older adults. You could hardly find a better actress than Meryl Streep, and she gives another exceptional performance as Kay, a woman who sees here marriage dying in front of her eyes. Every day is a routine, with her husband Arnold (Lee Jones) coming home from work, falling asleep watching the Golf Channel and then walking down to his separate bedroom to fall asleep. The kids are grown and life is dull and boring. Arnold seems content and resigned about things, but Kay wants more. She cashes in one of her investments and books them for a one-week intensive counseling session with Dr. Feld (Steve Carell) at Great Hope Springs, Maine. They will have daily counseling sessions with Dr. Feld and then have the rest of the day to rest and relax together. Arnold is against the whole idea, but Kay says that she will be leaving with or without him. Her persistence wins out, and they are on their way to see if their marriage can be saved.
This is an interesting premise for a film, and Streep and Jones are both great in showing us the pain and sadness that are at the heart of their troubled relationship. When they come to Dr. Feld’s office for their first session, hope seems to be a distant possibility. A preliminary exercise inviting them to go back to their room and hold each other seems to be awkward and sad. Kay and Arnold are still moving apart.
The main problem with the movie is the hokey “intensive counseling” plot point, set up simply to get this couple through their treatment in six days. Most of the suggested homework exercises involve their sex life, implying that if there is more sizzle in the bedroom, their marriage will spring back to life. I’m sure I’m overthinking this, but real intimacy cannot be recreated by going through the motions of intimacy; the doctor’s methodology is simple claptrap.
In spite of all that, Streep, Jones and even Carell (in an understated one-note performance as the psychologist) keep things interesting and entertaining. The irritating upbeat finale that plays during the ending credits, however, almost sinks the film. But hope springs, nevertheless.
Three halos: An extremely well-acted and touching film about midlife second-chances, cumbered with a contrived script.
Two pitchforks About as much implied sexual activity as a PG-13 film can bear, with more clothes on.
Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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