HOPE SPRINGS - 2012

Hollywood, concentrating on sensationalism to produce better revenues, has always betrayed behavioral health... depiction of the therapists have been characterized in three categories:

1) A savior... violating boundaries to help the patient...

2) A caricature... pathetic & incompetent... and

3) A monster... eating his clients...

There has been quite a time -- 32 years -- we have not been seeing compassionate but no nonsense -- Rogerian school practitioner -- therapist since Dr.. Berger [Judd Hirsch] in "Ordinary People" and... "wow!" here is one in this movie: Dr. Feld [Steve Carell]...

What? Steve Carell? A therapist? Oh my God, here goes the serious neighborhood!!! Yes, I know... I had the same reaction! However, after depicting so many characters that may easily be ending up in the patient's couch, he trades his neurotic self with sharp, behaviorally oriented and impartial therapist in this movie! Bravo!

Kay [Meryl Streep] is not happy with her marriage... not because something bad happening but perhaps worse... nothing is happening! She and her hubby Arnold [Tommy Lee Jones] live like two workers sharing a quarter after 32 years of marriage... His strong apnea and related problems led them to sleep in separate rooms that would not be helping the problem, at all... Their daughter, son-in-law and son have been aware of this situation but give no advice, do not do anything. Arnold appears to be accepting the situation and carries out the routine without verbalization.

Kay starts to seek some advice and finds Dr. Feld's book in a store. He offers a private week retreat to his prospective clients having family problems with a fee of $4,000... Kay, desperate -- yes, she is literally one of those Desperate Housewives!!! -- to make some meaning out of her marriage, first opens up to Arnold and upon his indifference, buys airline tickets for him and herself since the retreat is in Maine.

Extremely reluctant, Arnold joins her while constantly bitching about the trip!

They start their sessions with Dr. Feld and both demonstrated gender specific presentations, i.e., Kay is open and ready to do everything while Arnold appears to be angry, suspicious and reserved!

Dr. Feld gives them "sexercise" after each session. Both being very awkward to get into the intimate relationship produce a lot of material leading cinema goers to laugh but in the same time generating empathy among the audience.

In one of their sessions, Dr. Feld asks about their sensual fantasies and whether they masturbate... Both get very embarrassed since the answer for both is "no!" Dr. Feld tells them that they have to end everything about the past and start from the square one. He gives a metaphor of problematic septum -- Arnold has one, of course -- that interfering with breathing and one has to "break" it through surgery, a painful operation to have a new, healthy nose that functions adequately.

The couple finally hits the bottom: Arnold takes his wife out to an expensive restaurant for dinner while securing a suit for their stay! Kay is very happy and does not know what to do with this change for the better. During their intimate moment on the floor, however, she catches him not to look at her during sensual relationship. She realizes that he has not been wanting her any longer, not fantasizing Kay during the performance.

Devastated by this finding that leads to "failure" -- actually a success in finding out what is not felt -- they both return back home and start living as they have been doing previously. However, Arnold enters into the room of his wife one night and makes love with this "woman" about whom he is to be learning... Kay too, is happy to find out that she too needs to learn about this "man" in many years to come... so Kay and Arnold dead, long live Kay and Arnold...

It is not a cheesy happy ending but a very hopeful -- and realistic -- finish -- starting something new... intimate alpha & omega...

A little bit comedy, a little bit drama but all realistic in flow, the movie especially addresses the people who have been married for decades and threatened by losing the passion, turning out sentimentally "vegetable" creatures sharing a place under the same roof...

The movie is a therapist's "delight" regarding to share with his/her patients in general and families in particular... in whole or clip wise...

This is the very first film in which the "family therapy" has been taking the whole time unlike many movies where a scene or two are saved for the purpose.

Actors are great... One of my colleagues once said that Meryl Streep may make a Shakespearian tragedy out of the content of Yellow Pages! Tommy Lee Jones is still attractive with his down-the-earth performance... My commendations, however, goes to Director David Frankel: Realistic behavioral health problems... realistic patients... realistic treatment principles -- cognitive/behavioral in format & style -- and realistic outcome WITHOUT boring the audience...

One of the scenes I got really a big kick out of it:

Dr. Feld, in one of the sessions, makes an inquiry about oral sex and whether they get any pleasure in doing and/or receiving... After a lot of "murmuring" on both sides, surfaced that Arnold who have never had it before with his wife thinks he may enjoy it and Kay despite her embarrassment, is willing to try...in the public! They go to the movie theater showing a foreign flick -- the scenes I caught were reflective of French 1998 production "The Dinner Game - Le Diner de Cons," -- Kay starts working on her husband but due to her awkwardness and discomfort of the seats Arnold feels sharp pain more than a pleasure each time she tries!

Why I got a big kick out of this scene?

I have been working on cinema therapy, movie therapy, film therapy but never, ever thought that one day there would also be "movie theater therapy" to reckon :-)

The movie's title too, is interesting: Hope Springs, [Maine]...

The hope really springs [up-out]for this couple, there...