Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones in "Hope Springs." (Barry Wetcher / Columbia…)
Meryl Streep will be returning to the Oscars next year -- as a presenter, not as a nominee.
And, yes, it's difficult to muster any measure of sympathy or outrage over a woman who has now won three Academy Awards and received 17 nominations. But the fact that Streep likely will be roundly ignored for her deeply felt turn in the domestic drama "Hope Springs" speaks volumes to the narrow range of movies and performances that academy members reward.
In "Hope Springs," Streep plays Kay, a 60ish woman dissatisfied with her marriage after 31 years. Kay and husband Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) have fallen into a crippling rut. Conversation sticks to news and events. Sex is nonexistent and has been for a while. They occupy the same split-level house, but whatever emotional intimacy they once enjoyed has long left the building.
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And Kay, a meek woman who has spent a lifetime deferring to her husband's wishes, can't take it anymore. She makes a rare demand -- that Arnold accompany her to Maine to undertake some serious couples therapy. Arnold naturally pushes back. He can't see the problem, though, deep (deep) down, he knows things aren't right. So he acquiesces. And, contrary to the movie's advertising, hilarity (for the most part) does not ensue.
"Hope Springs" isn't a great movie, but it will stick around a lot longer than "The Iron Lady."For a mainstream studio picture, it contains remarkably frank and honest discussions about sex and intimacy. And Streep and Jones make you buy into every beat.
Streep's performance in "The Iron Lady" occasionally went deeper than expert mimicry. But its degree of difficulty can't compare with the soul-baring work she does in "Hope Springs." Even 31 years of marriage to a jackass like Arnold hasn't defeated this eternal optimist. Kay is lonely, desperate to try a little tenderness. Streep makes you feel her aching need.
But because "Hope Springs" arrives in early August and it's being marketed as a comedy without any Imprint of Importance attached to it, it's likely to be an Oscar afterthought. Again, don’t cry for Meryl. But do take note of a continued need for academy members to change, or at least expand, their way of thinking as we head into awards season.
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