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November 8, 2012

Hope Springs

Filed under: Personal — Tags: , , , , , , , — llcall @ 9:07 pm

I had a pretty great birthday week. I thought the days of really celebrating my birthday were over, squeezed out of me by a too-energetic toddler who thinks every day should be some kind of celebration. But between a lunch with old friends, sushi and Cafe Rio with Neal, pizza and chocolate cake with Kirsten and the fam, two dollar-theater date nights, and a temple trip (most of it courtesy of my parents’ babysitting), I am feeling pretty spoiled this year.

On Friday night we saw Hope Springs, chosen because it was the only dollar movie remotely interesting to us with a reasonable show time (I don’t party past 9:30 these days!). I did not know much about it, other than Steve Carrell plays a therapist counseling the unhappily married Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones. It was not quite what I was expecting; it took me some time to figure out if it that was good or bad. The movie was both more awkward (I’ve never thought much about what it would be like to watch 60-somethings talk about the challenges of their high/low libido relationship on screen) and more poignant (I cried at least 8 or 9 times, but that’s not news, right?). I was trying to think of how to describe it and then I read this HuffPost review. These two paragraphs sort of sum it up:

Although it’s high-stakes drama –- you really don’t know until the end if this marriage can be saved — it’s a nuanced portrait of a relationship in which nothing, and yet everything, happens.

“It’s a little journey,” said Streep in a roundtable with a dozen reporters in New York. “That’s the story: A door opens. It’s not hyperbolic at all; it’s just a little movement within a relationship. But it’s seismic and it speaks to people; it’s [about] your deepest yearning.”

“Nuanced portrait . . . in which nothing, yet everything, happens.” Yes. There is almost no “plot.” There is no Hollywood twist. There is no big revelation that suddenly explains or resolves this gulf that has built up between these two people who have been married for 31 years. It was so refreshing.

“It’s not hyperbolic at all . . . but it’s seismic and speaks to people; it’s [about] your deepest yearning.” Double yes. I was more than a little surprised at how much it resonated with nearly everything I have learned over the last several years of grad school courses, teaching marriage and family classes, going to marriage counseling myself, and reading dozens of relationship books. It’s hard to imagine that anyone who has been married for more than a few years would not find it tapping into some of their deepest fears or yearnings. (That said, I would love to hear from you if you’ve seen the movie and I’m wrong about that!)

Neal and I were certainly among the youngest people in the theater, and judging from the older couples’ reactions, they found it even funnier than we did. For our part, we thought it might have been a little too preoccupied with the sexual aspect of intimacy (the trailer gives you a sense of that). That said, sex taps into a lot of deep, emotional aspects of our relationships, and in most marriages it is uncomfortable to fully discuss, and so increased attention to it can be valuable and growth-inducing.

As a much younger couple at a pretty strong place in our relationship after that rough go during the transition to parenthood, it spoke to me most as a cautionary tale about how much easier it is to maintain your relationship than it is to rebuild it. Just that morning I had been reviewing our October finances and considered cutting out our planned December getaway since some unexpected expenses had cut into our budget. But after watching Hope Springs, I rethought. A couple of days away now is so much cheaper than figuring out how to come back together later, after you’ve let life pull you apart.

After almost a week of mulling it over, I find that I love this movie. I love that a Hollywood movie with big-name actors takes the importance of marriage as foundational. I love that Meryl Streep’s character says some things that I have thought, but never said (even with my communication obsession). I love that the director David Frankel said, “For me, marriage is always worth fighting for” — and made a movie that could inspire others to feel that way too. And I love that this movie made over 100 million dollars, which means that a whole lot of people went to the movie theater and hopefully reflected on some of the weightier questions the movie touches on. Like this one that Steve Carrell asks, in his best therapist voice (he totally nailed therapist speak, by the way):  “There comes a point when you have to ask yourself, have I done all I could?” Have I done all I could? That’s no small thing to consider, especially in comparison to what Hollywood usually encourages us to think about.



  1. This is a great post. And totally happy that you had such a fun filled birthday.

    I think it surprises me when I hear about Hollywood-entrenched people who value marriage. Maybe because we usually see just the jaded side of life on television. I find myself valuing my marriage more each year. Truthfully, I never really cared whether I’d get married (although I always wanted kids) and told Peter several times that it puzzled me that people even get married. Especially since our tax ramifications were awful.

    But to me, right now, marriage is about humanity. I find it simply amazing that people stay together after the hardships that a child brings and I also truly believe that monogamy goes against the “natural man”. So to me, an enduring marriage illustrates the will of mankind to rise above inertia and affirm their humanity. I would never say that divorce is the easy way out (for other people), but I will totally admit I’ve been in my car and thought, “What would happen if I just kept driving?” and for me, that would be the easy way out. For some reason that makes me value marriage even more.

    Long enough rambling on my part! Happy birthday again!

    Comment by kei02003 — November 8, 2012 @ 9:48 pm

    • Oh, I definitely relate. To pretty much everything, except the tax ramifications. =) When I was younger I often said that I did not want to get married (I also thought that kids might not be for me), but as I alluded to in my previous “Mommy update” I think being a wife and mother are by far the things that will produce the most growth in me; educational efforts, career goals, and taking care of myself were so, so easy in comparison.

      Comment by llcall — November 9, 2012 @ 6:52 am

  2. I’m so glad you got to have so much fun for your birthday. I’ve never heard of that movie, but now I want to watch it. What a great review you provided!

    Comment by Victoria — November 9, 2012 @ 2:13 am

    • I definitely thought of some conversations we’ve had before while watching it!

      Comment by llcall — November 9, 2012 @ 6:53 am

  3. Oh, I’m totally intrigued by the movie now. Will’s parents weren’t impressed and so I decided to take it off my ‘to see’ list, but come to think of it, we definitely have some different opinions when it comes to movies. And I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to have someone now-a-days (not just Hollywood-how sad is that) say, “For me, marriage is always worth fighting for.” Just for that, I’m willing to support that movie!

    On a side note- I’ve been playing with the idea of taking a little trip with Will to celebrate the completion of his tests (that’s under the assumption he completes them in dec), but just like you, I have kept looking at our finances and thinking- there is no way we are going to spend that money on us right now (That’s $99 for a two night stay at an awesome resort- yes we are very frugal). But maybe- no we, our marriage, friendship, and the whole whole enchilada are DEFINITELY worth it. So thanks for the inspiration!

    And lady, you deserve all the pampering that comes to you on your birthday. I just wish I could be there as one of the pampers. 🙂

    Comment by Ish Clayton — November 9, 2012 @ 2:41 am

    • Was pampers a diaper reference? =)

      Yeah, the getaway that we are talking about is in the under $100 range too. After talking to you last month and hearing about your schedules, I say, definitely, you and Will need that break!

      When you do end up seeing the movie, I want to hear your thoughts! Meryl Streep has been married over 30 years and I think you could sort of feel that in her performance. Like, this is real.

      Comment by llcall — November 9, 2012 @ 6:58 am

      • LOL- No, ma’am! As much as I love you, I’d prefer to be your bra- not diaper. 😉 That being said- let’s go with it being a witty play on words by me. Yes, I think I like that better.

        Comment by Ish Clayton — November 12, 2012 @ 10:53 pm

  4. I’ve been wanting to watch this, both because of the subject of the film and because I adore (need it be said?) Meryl. Thanks for the review, now I’m more excited to watch it than ever!

    Comment by Jen — November 9, 2012 @ 6:01 pm

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