Reuniting Devil Wears Prada director David Frankel with Meryl Streep, whose performance here is equally good but occupies the opposite end of the female assertiveness scale, Hope Springs is a quality custom vehicle for two veteran actors, the other being a convincingly cynical, pestered, and sour-pussed Tommy Lee Jones as her husband of 31 years.  Can counseling sessions with sensitivity maven Steve Carell put the spice back into what’s left of their dwindling lives?

The trailer is definitely lighter in tone than the actual experience of watching Hope Springs, with many moments of marital mediocrity and sexual despair being genuinely painful to endure.  What’s most remarkable about Hope Springs, though, is that Streep and Jones come through it all with so much dignity intact.  Even as the two are prodded into revealing their intimate foibles and failings and are directed to engage in sexual experimentation by a Daily Show alumnus wearing a series of odd tie choices, they never lose the respect or the intense interest of the viewer.  Commendably, in view of the fact that this is primarily a women’s film, both husband and wife are allowed an equal humanity, and the screenplay, which takes unexpected turns more than once, is as judiciously neutral as can be expected.

Chick flick rules, however, are in effect, which means that men less secure in their masculinity than your reviewer will be embarrassed to enter and exit theaters exhibiting Hope Springs.  Chick flick conventions also dictate occasionally reprehensible music, with the most wince-inducing sequence probably being a montage in which Streep and Jones, having returned from counseling with lingering uncertainties, separately ruminate over whether to give their marriage another chance – a montage, mind you, set to Annie Lennox’s “Why”, which is there to let the women in the audience know that this is serious.

Meryl Streep, even at 63, is an amazingly gorgeous old lady, and her costuming here always captures her at her best, even when she’s supposed to look frumpy and humble.  The bulldog features of Jones, meanwhile, only serve to underscore the depth of Streep’s character’s undying love for her husband, as little else would explain her lust for such a phlegmatic bore.  All that remains to be asked is, now that she’s tamed Clint Eastwood and Tommy Lee Jones, which geriatric stud is next on her hit list?  Maybe next time she can reach Stacy Keach or break through Chuck Norris’s emotional blockage and get him to talk and not just kick about his feelings.

Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Hope Springs is:

3. Pro-gay.  Streep consults a sex manual written by a gay man for straight women – gay men naturally knowing more than women about how to please straight men.

2. Moderately pro-castration.  It’s not enough for men to be men anymore.  They have to go to counseling to discuss intimacy, etc.  The effeminized, empathetic Steve Carell character represents sex role buddhahood in the Hope Springs universe.

1. Pro-marriage, though not without unsettling caveats.

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