This film is a delightful comedy that is about something deep: the fate of a marriage. Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones give stellar performances and play characters so real, so like us, you may feel like you’re looking at a home movie. This may be the best film of 2012 so far.
Meryl Streep plays Kay, a woman who’s been married to Arnold, played brilliantly by Tommy Lee Jones. Arnold is a man set in his ways — he works hard all day and loves to fall asleep in his easy chair watching golf. In a set routine, Kay wakes Arnold each night and they ascend the stairs to their separate bedrooms.
After 32 years of marriage, however, Kay finds herself wanting a deeper connection. She signs she and her husband up for intensive marital counseling with Dr. Feld, played by a perfectly, often frustratingly objective, Steve Carell. But will Arnold actually attend? And if he does attend, will it bring about the change Kay is searching for?
Reluctantly, VERY reluctantly, Arnold agrees and the therapy begins. Typically, I don’t enjoy films or television shows that present characters in psychotherapy because I find it to be completely inauthentic. Not here. Screenwriter Vanessa Taylor writes two very real people in pain, in laughter, in discovery. Theirs is a journey most anyone who’s ever been in a long-term relationship can relate to.
Streep is, of course, terrific in her role. She presents Kay as a woman who is aging, still attractive and curious, yet flawed. She learns how she contributed to the emotional estrangement in the marriage, yet continues to courageously fight for the spark to return.
But it takes two to tango and Tommy Lee Jones is surprisingly likable in his manly gruffness and resistance. Change is scary and most men want to avoid it at all costs — Arnold is no different. Only when he fears the reward is truly worth the risk, does he come around, making us wonder, making us hope, perhaps our partner could, too.