For anyone who has ever wanted a second chance at love with the same partner, Hope Springs starring a midwestern couple played by Meryl Streep (Kay) and Tommy Lee Jones (Arnold), is your movie. And make sure you stay through the credits because some of the best parts are shown as they're rolling.
I wish my midwestern parents were still around because much is made of the day September 22nd in the film. That was their wedding day. They were married 40 years. It also happens to be my Dartmouth roommate Linda's birthday. She and Kirk have been married nearly 40 years now, too. They began their married life with Kirk studying for his MBA at the University of Chicago.
Another close-to-the-heart moment for me is Streep's blue butterfly earrings. As my mother was dying I asked her to send me a blue butterfly from heaven.
Hope Springs reminds me of the opening line from the bestseller Love Story but with a twist. I thought of not Jenny (Ali McGraw) but Tommy Lee Jones. What can you say about a guy from Texas in real life who pulls himself up by his bootstraps to room across the hall from former Vice President Al Gore at not just any college but Harvard, and then at an age when most are retiring, gets to make out with Meryl Streep in movie life?
In Hope Springs, Tommy Lee Jones (Arnold) had me with his seductive shimmy shake shoulder dance with Meryl sitting on the floor before the proverbial fireplace.
Jones gives an Oscar worthy performance. Usually he plays the heavy, not the romantic lead. Who knew these two would have such chemistry in their first film together or they would have been coupled years before.
The Office's Steve Carell, as the marriage therapist, also plays against type. Carell does a great job playing with sincerity and not for laughs. I kept thinking, "Is he accepting clients in real life?" Because he should be with that performance.
With therapist Steve Carell egging her on, Meryl as Kay does something at the movie theater watching a French film most would get arrested for. This is the naughtiest Meryl has ever been on film.
In some ways, watching Hope Springs was like seeing an update of Ryan O'Neal and Ali McGraw in Love Story (1970). Love Story's creator Erich Segal, is said to have modeled Ryan O'Neal's character Oliver Barrett IV partly after Gore and Jones, whom he met when he taught at Harvard.
Actor Tommy Lee Jones made his film debut in Love Story, playing a college buddy of Ryan O'Neal's, named Hank Simpson. His on-screen credit was as Tom Lee Jones.
As a Vassar freshman when Love Story came out, I was thrilled to be able to sit in on one of Professor Segal's classics lectures with a guy I was dating who was enrolled in the course at Yale.
A decade later, I interviewed Segal on my call-in talk show on Chicago's Westinghouse-owned WIND-AM Radio. He was then living in London and was so generous during the interview to refer to me as one of his former students. He had written a new book which later became a film too, Man, Woman and Child, starring Gwyneth Paltrow's mother Blythe Danner and Martin Sheen, Charlie's dad.
Let's hope we see more from first-time screenwriter Vanessa Taylor, who also writes for the HBO series, Game of Thrones. Could Taylor be another Nora Ephron? Wellesley College educated and award winning screenwriter Ephron died on June 26th.
Although unmarried herself in a story about a long-term marriage, Taylor's writing is so honest, so raw at times, so real life. It's as if you are in the movie and not just watching it. What is said is often uncomfortable to hear. You feel as if Meryl is your mother, sister, daughter, friend and yes, even you.
In a time of so much economic and political uncertainty with record-breaking heat and drought in much of the nation, it's refreshing to sit in an air-conditioned theater for a couple hours where hope springs eternal.