Mr. Movie

'Hope Springs' but not eternally

Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones are Kay and Arnold, who have been married more than 30 years and they've lost the spark.

She wants to reignite the passion. Arnold, who sleeps alone, rarely looks at his wife and grunts monosyllabic answers to her questions, can't see why. Kay discovers book to cure all marital ills. It's written by a counselor played by Steve Carell.

She forces him to accompany her to a week's worth of sessions.

Put a cast together like this one and hope for a fabulous and moving movie experience does spring. Eternally. Streep and Jones -- particularly -- work and work and work to give some forward energy to this couple's story. Both are nothing short of brilliant.

No surprise. Streep -- as always -- is incredible and, here, is extraordinarily ordinary. She's bland, Midwestern plain. A determined housewife stuck in a sexless, seemingly loveless marriage. Kay's peaks-and-valley struggle allows Streep to play with a variety of emotions.

And Streep can say and do more with a gesture or a facial expression than most can do with a page of lines.

Simply put, she is the best actress ever and remains at the top of her game in Hope Springs.

Jones matches her move for move. Arnold is completely disconnected from the relationship. He's traded romance for routine and life by rote. The man sleeps alone in his own room, and each night when he shuts the door he shuts a little more of Kay out of his life.

He's also painfully stubborn about change. Any change. Forget coming clean about emotions and feelings. All of that has been stifled for decades.

Jones' interaction with Streep is pitch-perfect. It's as much fun to watch him and his reactions to Kay's confessions as it is watching Streep deliver the lines. And -- as you know -- he, too, can flat-out act. Jones' ability to disconnect and not flow with the flow is brilliant.

Carell, too, plays well with others. He is neither hot or cold. His character is just there, the psychology pro asking critical, probing questions; the fulcrum dangling hope.

Reality and hope rarely mix. A sadly lacking, and underwritten script by Vanessa Taylor (TV's Game of Thrones) and tepid direction from The Devil Wears Prada director David Frankel leaves his stars dangling hopelessly. As noted earlier, the three actors work furiously to save what can't be saved.

Ironically, Hope Springs is as spiritually and physically dead as the marriage it tries to save.

Mr. Movie rating: 2 1/2 stars

Director: David Frankel

Stars: Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones, Steve Carell, Jean Smart, Elisabeth Shue, Mimi Rogers

Rated R for language, sex, crude themes. It's playing at Regal's Columbia Center 8, the Fairchild Cinemas 12 and at Walla Walla Grand Cinemas.

5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen

4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.

3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.

2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.

0 stars: Speaks for itself.