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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Hope Springs

John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service

Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones star in "Hope Springs."
Although fundamentally moral, "Hope Springs" (Columbia)—a skillful mix of comedy and drama that focuses on the problems of one long-married couple—is also significantly flawed.

Primarily, that's because the frankness with which director David Frankel's film approaches marital intimacy veers, at times, into intrusiveness. Additionally, in keeping with the under-refined values of contemporary society, his picture implies that virtually all methods of obtaining sexual gratification—at least between married partners—are acceptable.

Still, a resounding pro-marriage message undergirds the proceedings as aging Omaha, Neb., suburbanites Kay (Meryl Streep) and Arnold Soames (Tommy Lee Jones) work to rekindle their spark. Worn down by routine after three decades together, they've gradually grown physically and emotionally distant, occupying separate rooms at night and hardly exchanging a word during the day.

While grumpy Arnold seems resigned to this fate, feisty Kay is unwilling to give up so easily. So, at her insistence, the pair sets off to Maine for a week of intensive therapy with marriage counselor and self-help author Dr. Bernard Feld (Steve Carell).

Even discussing their personal problems—much less solving them—proves a challenge for the buttoned-up duo. Much of the humor plays off the contrast between their verbal and behavioral inhibitions and Feld's unflappable straightforwardness on any and all subjects.

Yet, as he peers into every aspect of their history, as well as their unfulfilled desires and fantasies, viewers need not be puritans to share in Kay and Arnold's discomfiture. And things go from bad to worse when we're subjected to a brief but unseemly scene in which Kay resorts to a sinful alternative to the physical union she and Arnold no longer share. While her act is portrayed as a pathetic symptom of desperation, this interlude marks the movie's low point of unnecessary immodesty.

Thus, while "Hope Springs" celebrates determined fidelity, and finds its leads in top form, the proportion of screenwriter Vanessa Taylor's script devoted to talk about, or activity in, the bedroom narrows the appropriate audience for this keenly observed study. Only mature moviegoers well formed in faith and morals will be up to the task of gleaning its virtues from its failings.

The film contains considerable sexual content, including semigraphic scenes of marital lovemaking and masturbation; pervasive references to sexuality; a benign view of aberrant sex acts; about a half-dozen uses of profanity; and at least one crude and a few crass terms. The Catholic News Service classification is L—limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.

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<p>Born in 1577, Mark Rey (Fidelis was his religious name) became a lawyer who constantly upheld the causes of the poor and oppressed people. Nicknamed "the poor man's lawyer," Fidelis soon grew disgusted with the corruption and injustice he saw among his colleagues. He left his law career to become a priest, joining his brother George as a member of the Capuchin Order. His wealth was divided between needy seminarians and the poor. </p><p>As a follower of Francis, Fidelis continued his devotion to the weak and needy. During a severe epidemic in a city where he was guardian of a friary, Fidelis cared for and cured many sick soldiers. </p><p>He was appointed head of a group of Capuchins sent to preach against the Calvinists and Zwinglians in Switzerland. Almost certain violence threatened. Those who observed the mission felt that success was more attributable to the prayer of Fidelis during the night than to his sermons and instructions. </p><p>He was accused of opposing the peasants' national aspirations for independence from Austria. While he was preaching at Seewis, to which he had gone against the advice of his friends, a gun was fired at him, but he escaped unharmed. A Protestant offered to shelter Fidelis, but he declined, saying his life was in God's hands. On the road back, he was set upon by a group of armed men and killed. </p><p>He was canonized in 1746. Fifteen years later, the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, which was established in 1622, recognized him as its first martyr.</p> American Catholic Blog Obedience means total surrender and wholehearted free service to the poorest of the poor. All the difficulties that come in our work are the result of disobedience.

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