Dr. Seth Meyers, Clinical Psychologist

Dr. Seth Meyers, Clinical Psychologist

Monday, August 13, 2012

New Film Presents Seriously Unrealistic Relationship

I wanted to like Hope Springs. I love the leads, Tommy Lee Jones and Meryll Streep, but they deserve a much better vehicle than this film provides. The tone was inconsistent and much of the dialogue is hopelessly trite, so much so that I found myself at several points wish the film would hurry up and end already. That’s never good, right?

I have a problem with this film on many levels, but the main problem I have is the fact that this couple is extremely unrealistic. Come on, how many couples sleep in separate bedrooms? Sure, it happens, but how many couples can relate to a couple that is as disconnected as the couple in this film? And while many middle-aged women cook and clean for their husband, the film presents a woman waiting on a man hand and foot as if the characters were straight out of the 1950s. I truly don’t believe that gender dynamics in most male-female relationships are half as skewed as the ones we see in this film. This is not your average couple, so why use this couple as a vehicle for an discussion about relationships? Simply put, Hope Springs would be more interesting and relatable if it didn't present such an extreme couple.

Another major problem I have with the film is the fact that it was marketed as a comedy. If you’ve seen the film, you know that the subject of this movie couldn’t be any more serious. Though I believe the intentions of the makers of this film were good, I think that the deceptive advertising was out of line: audiences should know when they’re walking into a dark and heavy film. In this case, I went in with the belief that laughs would comprise a part of a legitimate comedy, not a perfunctory addition to keep August movie-goers happy.

At root, the subject of the film is important and deserve to be treated more effectively. As a therapist who works with couples, I understand fully how passion is a mysterious force in a romantic relationship, like a fleeting ghost that appears and disappears in turns, requiring constant vigilance and care between two partners to encourage it to stay around a little longer. The one accomplishment the film achieves is to show how two people can get lazy after a period of years, and to urge the audience to see that two lovers sometimes need to be reminded why they should stay in a relationship.

I’m not convinced that Hope Springs will have much of a shelf life, but I’m intent on trying to take some lesson from it. Here’s the lesson I believe we can all take: If you shut down, your partner will soon shut down, too. At the end of the day, the film’s most urgent recommendation is to do what so many people hate doing in the first place: talk about your feelings – especially the negative ones.

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