Well, this was a surprise; this low-key drama about two senior citizens reinvigorating their marriage/love life is not only cute and funny, but also surprisingly kinda touching. Kay takes out 4000 bucks out of her personal savings to invest in a week of couples therapy in Maine. Husband Arnold is a grumpy, gold-watching curmudgeon, and is not so down to spend a week getting in touch with his feelings (or, god forbid, his sex life), but Kay goads him into joining her at the last minute. While his attitude is consistently negative (the small town is hours away from the airport, he disapproves of their Econolodge room, and of course, everything is too expensive), Kay is elated that they’re taking this venture. In therapy sessions with their relationship-guru counselor, her motivations for making the trip come out: for years, she has felt stagnant, bored, and romantically frustrated, likening her marriage to “two people who happen to live in the same house”. As they reflect on their history, and the progression of time that has led to this point (Arnold’s back problems, Kay’s motherhood), they slowly make strides in breaching their intimacy blockage and rekindling their passion for one another.
The movie is a very acting-centric affair, with the majority of the humor and pathos coming from the lead couple’s interactions with one another, and luckily, they got two of the best in the business to play Kay and Arnold. Meryl Streep is phenomenal as Kay, taking a more restrained and subtle approach than usual to portray this beleaguered, but good-natured and loving housewife. As terrific as she is, she is somewhat usurped by her costar, Tommy Lee Jones, who scores many of the film’s biggest laughs with nothing more than a facial tic or a surly line delivery. If Streep provides the emotional backbone for the film, it is Jones that makes the experience a truly fun ride, and watching him squirm and mutter his way through the therapy sessions is a huge factor in this film’s memorability. Steve Carell, as their therapist, gets surprisingly little character development, but Carell portrays the doctor with a surprising distance that seems appropriately realistic for his role (no Robin Williams dead-wife lamentations here). The film does inevitably get schmaltzy in it’s second half, but nowhere near the level of similar, older-skewing comedies like Something’s Gotta Give or Streep’s own It’s Complicated, and doesn’t pander for a second. Even the PG-13 sex discussions seem naturally awkward, not in a stilted sitcom-friendly way but rather in a nervous manner that feels realistic for a 30-year couple. The ending is a feel-good success, again due to Streep and Jones’ formidable talents, and I did not feel cheated by the credits sequence that pays off an earlier, slightly-forced line in the movie. Really an enjoyable, touching little film.
Recommended for fans of Jones and Streep, or serious couples; I liked the film’s rough-around-the-edges portrayal of marriage, and it is a welcome change from both happy-go-lucky romantic comedies and overwrought domestic melodramas alike.