Carell plays it straight in star-studded marital drama

NEW TO DVD

Hope Springs (M)

MARITAL problems can spread far and wide in households brought up on traditional values and morals, those without (or with) steady incomes and those where the children have grown up and moved out.

The idea of a picture-perfect marriage is simply a myth in which those even in the lowest point of their relationships hold on to for the hope of happier times.

What people need is for someone to tell them that even the greatest of marriages have terrible years.

Dr Feld (Steve Carell) is that guy. When Kay (Meryl Streep) and Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) go to a week's worth of counselling with him they're told, as they should be, is that they still have to work to make their marriage good.

Arnold is a bit of a cantankerous creature though, angry at himself and the world for no apparent reason. It's a huge burden on Kay, who initiated the 'vacation' because of a lack of intimacy.

Their journey then fast becomes one of re-exploring their sexual selves, starting with a simple touch and developing further.

A mix of comedy and drama ensues as you learn more about the two, in their interactions with one another as well as the difficult sessions with Dr Feld.

The middle-aged couple trying to rekindle the fire come across as virginal teenagers in their overwhelming uncertainty, but scenes of this nature are handled deftly to represent an overall situation many struggle with in their own lives.

Kay finds it difficult to think outside a generic frame of mind when it comes to the bedroom, while Arnold is just unsure about the need to be paying so much money to talk to someone.

There are constant questions of why, as there should be with a scenario involving a therapist, but some of those refuse to be answered.

Dr Feld is an enigma to them both, as to us, nothing given away about his character outside his counselling centre.

Carell shows more of his serious side to good effect but it's a two-man show between the troubled couple, director David Frankel using the strength of Streep and Jones to carry the first screenplay by Vanessa Taylor high.

Frankel first directed Streep in The Devil Wears Prada, a film with a strong but fragile female antagonist.

Here, Kay is weak and lonely, a seemingly opposite protagonist, but Streep grows into her character as Kay continues to rediscover her former life and how to reclaim it. Jones' cranky exterior is also shattered as Arnold realises he has nothing to lose.

Being comfortable with awkwardness is the first step to any form of recovery regardless of what anyone tells you.

From there it's usually either a laugh or lots of tears, but this story blends a mix of emotions gently.

So, let's talk about sex baby.

Rating: 3/5

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