Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Real Marriage - Hope Springs

....that elusive American movie screen subject: an honest how the New York Times describes Hope Springs. Personally, I thought it was a terrific movie about marriage. Unlike Abby and Ira a movie which scoffs at marriage, Hope Springs portrays a real marriage and its possibilities.
        Unsatisfied with a marriage where passion has dried up like an old grape, Kay (Meryl Streep) begins a determined but civil campaign to re-engage Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) in an intimate marriage. Snoozing in front of the TV every night before he toddles off to his own bedroom, Arnold does not look like a likely candidate to have his marriage jump started. He eats the same breakfast every morning and reads the newspaper barely making eye contact with his pleasant wife.
Kay reads about a week long marriage intensive therapy session in Maine. She tells Arnold that she has purchased tickets to Maine and that she is going.  She hopes he will too. Arnold's last minute arrival at the plane just as it it about to depart is the first sign that he is in this too.  His willing if somewhat passive compliance bodes well for the future. 
        After they arrive in Maine and have several sessions with Dr. Feld the urgency to fix the marriage kicks up a notch.  Arnold is finally getting how unhappy Kay is. It's time for him to make his move. To watch cautious, frugal Arnold finagle his way into a lovely restaurant to take Kay followed by a breathtakingly romantic evening in a beautiful room upstairs in an inn warms the cockles of this marriage therapist's heart.  This guy is finally getting it - he needs to pursue his charming wife or risk losing her. Kay is a great role model for communicating what she needs without begging, cajoling, criticizing or tearing her hair out.  You know in her quiet and demure way, she means business.
        Arnold almost succeeds in a spectacular seduction scene and then, inexplicably, he is unable to complete the act of making love to his wife.  Just when you thought they were going to live happily ever after.  In their next session with Dr. Feld he is very matter of fact - he discharges them home with a new therapist...pleased with how far they have come.  Accepting the almost spectacular seductions in marriage is an act of wisdom and, as they say,life. It does not always end like in the movies.
       Back in their every day predictable life in Omaha, Kay has not been mollified. It's a real marriage or no marriage for Kay. There are no ugly threats or ultimatums.  She's packing to go stay at her friend’s house to take care of the cat. I don't know how Arnold has figured out that this is in the works but he gets that it's now or never. With courage and boldness he marches into her bedroom and they make love for the first time in five years. The earth moved. The marriage was revived.  The next morning, they go through their predictable breakfast routine. Arnold almost leaves like usual but retraces his steps and gives Kay the mother of all good-bye kisses. You know he will be back for more.
      Kay and Arnold are what I would call marriage heroes.  They hang in there despite a very long drought in their marriage. Neither of them had an affair of an addiction or any other garden variety means of acting out. The tolerated a severe drought in their marriage and yet they persevered and stayed married.  Kay did not give up her dream for a real marriage including sex and all. Lots of older couples with all the complexities of aging in both sexes simply throw in the towel so to speak when it comes to sex but not Kay or Arnold.
      As this couple whose love life had died, giggles and renews their vows  in the final scene , you see the transformation that has taken place and that transformation, in fact resurrection, in marriage  is possible.  They are my heroes.

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