“Hope Springs” (2012). Cast: Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones, Steve Carrell, Jean Smart, Brett Rice, Becky Ann Baker, Elisabeth Shue, Mimi Rogers, Ben Rappaport, Marin Ireland, Patch Darragh, Daniel J. Flaherty, Damian Young. Director: David Frankel. Screenplay: Vanessa Taylor. www.hopesprings-movie.com/
It’s sad to watch good things deteriorate as they spiral downward into dissolution and despair. But such seemingly intractable conditions are indeed reversible, provided we allow them to be, a point driven home in the new romantic comedy, “Hope Springs.”
Kay (Meryl Streep) and Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) don’t have the marriage they once did. After 31 years together, the suburban Omaha empty nesters have become more like housemates than husband and wife, not even sharing the same bedroom, let alone anything more substantive. They cross paths in the morning before each goes to work, and they meet for a mostly silent dinner each evening, after which Arnold retires to the family room, where he falls asleep watching the Golf Channel. That stale routine may be fine for the miserly, curmudgeonly Arnold, but it’s definitely not enough for Kay, who quietly – and desperately – suffers alone, hoping for change.
While browsing through a bookstore one day, Kay comes across a self-help guide to creating a more fulfilling relationship, written by noted marriage counselor Dr. Bernie Feld (Steve Carrell). She’s intrigued by the book, as well as the intensive couples counseling sessions he offers at his office in the rustic oceanside town of Hope Springs, Maine. Eager to get her marriage back, Kay signs up for the program, using her own funds, a decision that Arnold balks at as a waste of time and money. But, with seemingly nothing to lose, Kay stands her ground, insisting on following through with her plan, whether or not Arnold joins her. When faced with the prospect of losing his wife, Arnold relents (albeit reluctantly) and joins Kay on this journey of self-discovery, one that encourages the couple to examine who each of them is as an individual and as partners.
Like Kay and Arnold, when we get stuck in a rut (of any kind), it’s easy to chalk up the situation to “that’s just how things are.” Some might say that’s taking the lazy way out of implementing (or even considering) change in our lives, and, to a certain degree, that argument has merit. However, on a more basic (and less judgmental) level, such behavior also illustrates the power of our beliefs in manifesting the reality we experience through the conscious creation process. They not only create our existence, but they also serve to reinforce its continuation when they go unexamined or unchallenged. And those circumstances can be made even worse if we’re fundamentally unaware of what underlying forces are driving such stagnation.
That’s where programs like counseling come into play: They force us into looking at ourselves and what beliefs we hold. We may not enjoy engaging in such exercises, going into them kicking and screaming all the way, but sometimes “drastic” measures like this are necessary to help us become unstuck. And we’d be wise to get with the program, too, because, after all, there’s some part of us that inherently recognizes the need for change, even if we don’t embrace it openly; otherwise we wouldn’t have manifested the counseling sessions to break the stalemate in the first place!
One of the benefits that counseling program participants quickly find is that we’re not tied to our circumstances unless we allow ourselves to be, and those circumstances are clearly a product of the beliefs we hold. However, once we recognize those beliefs and the power we allow them to hold over us, it becomes possible to break the chains of limitation if we choose to do so. Kay and Arnold come to realize this as they go through their sessions. Dr. Feld’s probing questions push the couple into coming to grips with the circumstances (and the underlying beliefs that created them) that got them to where they are. Becoming consciouslyaware of those factors then allows the couple to decide whether they want to stay where they are or whether they want to move forward into a new phase of their relationship.
This process is particularly effective in helping couples resolve their issues, but its fundamental principles can be applied to becoming unstuck in any area of one’s life. That’s because placing the spotlight on the power of our beliefs in creating the reality we experience simultaneously makes us aware of our innate powers of choice and change, the driving forces behind which beliefs we embrace to start with and how we might subsequently alter them. It shows us where our attention is focused, a cornerstone principle in conscious creation. Indeed, as author and consciousness proponent Jane Roberts often noted in her writings with the channeled entity known as Seth, “we get what we concentrate upon.”
We’d be wise to bear this in mind when we find our situations unsatisfying. We can always change them if we allow ourselves to. And, if nothing else, that should give us hope, a reason for carrying on in search of a better existence (and better underlying beliefs). After all, if a couple as seemingly mired as Kay and Arnold can find hope to go on, there’s no reason why the rest of us can’t as well.
“Hope Springs” is a delightful film, at times positively hilarious and at others profoundly touching, even sad. Its script is a bit formulaic, but that’s more than compensated for by ample laughs (both big and small) and terrific performances by Streep and, especially, Jones. The leads share a great chemistry with one another, even when things go sour in their relationship, and they each have a tremendous capacity for conveying their characters’ feelings through simple facial expressions and body language, not having to rely on dialogue to carry things forward. It’s a “feel good” movie that doesn’t feel like a “feel good” movie, one that’s sure to please viewers in many ways.
We’ve all heard the expression “hope springs eternal,” and that’s certainly true if we leave ourselves open to the possibilities it affords, even under the most seemingly dire circumstances. Kay and Arnold come to discover this for themselves in a town whose name, ironically enough, embodies the essence of that notion. But then that should come as no surprise, because that’s the kind of magic that happens when we make that expression our mantra, when we incorporate it into the belief structure that brings us what we concentrate on, one that breaks the chains of limitation and ultimately makes it possible for us to live more fulfilling lives.
Copyright © 2012, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.