Streep and Jones play Kay and Arnold, a middle-class couple who have been married for 31 years. They sleep in separate bedrooms due to his snoring and haven't had sex for more than four years. She wants to reinvigorate their relationship and signs them up for a five-day retreat of counselling with marriage specialist Carrell. Each day he instructs them to get more intimate with each other to open them up to sex again.
This scenario is ripe for comedy. It could've been raucous and hilarious. Meryl would've been unafraid to seize the comic material full throttle and Tommy's grumpy persona would've have been an ideal foil for her. And the icing on the cake would be the manic comic artistry of Carrell. He'd be uproarious as a sex counsellor, no?
Alas, Hope Springs is sadly devoid of the funnies. Jones does have a couple of laugh-out-loud moments in detailing Arnold's sexual fantasies, but apart from that there's hardly a smile to be raised. It's a nuanced, heartfelt and boring effort that never really gets going. Very tentative in fact, taking its cue from Streep's character, an unconfident and undervalued woman who can't express her feelings enough. And Arnold is so irascible and intolerant at times one is puzzled as to why Kay has stayed with him all these years.
As for Carrell, well he is given no character to play at all. He is merely there to be their caring guide, soft and solicitous in drawing them out. It's a shameful waste of his talents. For a tale about the blooming of sex again in a long serving marriage it's a disappointingly frigid and flaccid affair. Nicely packaged to be sure, but bereft of arousing much enjoyment.