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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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Bernadette Soubirous: Bernadette Soubirous was born in 1844, the first child of an extremely poor miller in the town of Lourdes in southern France. The family was living in the basement of a dilapidated building when on February 11,1858, the Blessed Virgin Mary appeared to Bernadette in a cave above the banks of the Gave River near Lourdes. Bernadette, 14 years old, was known as a virtuous girl though a dull student who had not even made her first Holy Communion. In poor health, she had suffered from asthma from an early age. 
<p>There were 18 appearances in all, the final one occurring on the feast of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, July 16. Although Bernadette's initial reports provoked skepticism, her daily visions of "the Lady" brought great crowds of the curious. The Lady, Bernadette explained, had instructed her to have a chapel built on the spot of the visions. There the people were to come to wash in and drink of the water of the spring that had welled up from the very spot where Bernadette had been instructed to dig. </p><p>According to Bernadette, the Lady of her visions was a girl of 16 or 17 who wore a white robe with a blue sash. Yellow roses covered her feet, a large rosary was on her right arm. In the vision on March 25 she told Bernadette, "I am the Immaculate Conception." It was only when the words were explained to her that Bernadette came to realize who the Lady was. </p><p>Few visions have ever undergone the scrutiny that these appearances of the Immaculate Virgin were subject to. Lourdes became one of the most popular Marian shrines in the world, attracting millions of visitors. Miracles were reported at the shrine and in the waters of the spring. After thorough investigation Church authorities confirmed the authenticity of the apparitions in 1862. </p><p>During her life Bernadette suffered much. She was hounded by the public as well as by civic officials until at last she was protected in a convent of nuns. Five years later she petitioned to enter the Sisters of Notre Dame. After a period of illness she was able to make the journey from Lourdes and enter the novitiate. But within four months of her arrival she was given the last rites of the Church and allowed to profess her vows. She recovered enough to become infirmarian and then sacristan, but chronic health problems persisted. She died on April 16, 1879, at the age of 35. </p><p>She was canonized in 1933.</p> American Catholic Blog In humility, a woman ultimately forgets 
herself; forgets both her shortcomings and accomplishments equally and 
strives to remain empty of self to make room for Jesus, just as Mary 

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