Although a devoted couple, empty nesters Kay and Arnold Soames (Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones) are in need of (in Kay's opinion) help to reignite the spark in their marriage. They have slept in separate rooms for years since their youngest child went off to college, and forgo any physical affection. One day Kay (who works as a Coldwater Creek employee) tells Arnold (a partner in an Omaha accounting firm) she has paid for them to undergo a week of intense marriage counseling with Dr. Bernie Feld (Steve Carell) in a coastal resort town in Maine. Arnold, a creature of plodding, unimaginative routine, denies their marriage is in trouble.
In sessions with Dr. Feld they (mainly Kay) try to articulate their feelings, revitalize their relationship, and find the spark that caused them to fall in love in the first place. Dr. Feld counsels them, asking increasingly frank questions about their sex life and feelings. Arnold is angry and defensive, unwilling to see the depth of his wife's disappointment. Angry and crying, Kay goes alone to a bar where she has several glasses of wine, confides in the bartendress and learns that few others are having any sex, either. Arnold visits a nautical museum.
Back together, they spend the night in the same bed for the first time in years, and Kay awakes to find Arnold's arm around her. At this sign of progress, Dr. Feld urges new measures. They make halting attempts at intimacy on the bed of their budget motel and again in a movie theater, but this time with disastrous results.
In a one-on-one session, Dr. Feld explains to Arnold that couples seeking marriage counseling are doing so for a reason, and asks Arnold frankly, "Is this the best you can do?" Arnold finally takes the initiative to arrange a romantic dinner and a night at a luxury inn, where they attempt to make love in front of a fireplace, but the grand design fails. At their final session, Dr. Feld tells them they've made much progress and should take up couples therapy back home.
Back in Omaha, old habits resume. Kay offers to pet-sit for a fellow employee and packs a bag to stay there, as a first step in a permanent break with Arnold. That night, both are shown in bed trying to sleep. Arnold enters his wife's bedroom and they tenderly embrace. The lovemaking that follows is warm, natural, and quietly passionate. The next morning it's clear that the marriage is in a whole new place. Later that year, as Kay said she fantasized, they renew their wedding vows on a beach with Dr. Feld and their grown children present, making promises to be more understanding and considerate of each other.Meryl Streep as Kay Soames
Tommy Lee Jones as Arnold Soames
Steve Carell as Dr. Bernard 'Bernie' Feld
Elisabeth Shue as Karen
Jean Smart as Eileen
Ben Rappaport as Brad
Marin Ireland as Molly
Mimi Rogers as Carol
Becky Ann Baker as Cora
Lee Cunningham as Lee, the unhappy wife
The project was first announced in 2010 with Streep and Jeff Bridges in talks for the leads and Mike Nichols attached as director. Bridges soon dropped out, and James Gandolfini and Philip Seymour Hoffman were soon attached to the project.
The project then replaced Nichols with David Frankel, without the involvement of Ganfoldini and Hoffman. Steve Carell joined the cast in February 2011, with Tommy Lee Jones replacing Bridges in the opposite lead.
Filming took place in September and October 2011 in Connecticut.
Reviews were mostly positive, with critics praising the cast, particularly Streep, Jones, and Carell. Metacritic, which assigns a weighted mean rating to reviews from mainstream critics, gives the film a score of 65 out of 100, based on reviews from 36 critics, indicating "generally positive reviews". Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives an approval rating of 74%, with an average score of 6.6/10, based on reviews from 159 critics. The site's consensus states: "Led by a pair of mesmerizing performances from Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones, Hope Springs offers filmgoers some grown-up laughs -- and a thoughtful look at mature relationships."
Rex Reed of The New York Observer praised the film:
"I think everything about the movie is too subtle and real to appeal to the Batman demographic, but for mature audiences who have forgotten how to smile, it takes up where The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel left off."
Angie Errigo of Empire magazine felt the film worked on multiple levels:
"Very funny, it's also penetrating on the ravages of time on love and marriage and sweetly touching, but with abundantly incongruous randy content to heartily amuse."
Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times praised the performance of Jones:
"The reason to see it is for Jones. This man who can stride fearlessly through roles requiring strong, determined men, this actor who can seem in complete control, finds a character here who seems unlike any other he has played and plays it bravely."
Hope Springs was released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc on December 5, 2012.