After thirty years of marriage to Tommy Lee Jones' golf-obsessed grump, frustrated wife Meryl Streep persuades him to reluctantly join her for a week-long counselling session from Steve Carell's relationship guru. Home truths - mainly sexual ones - are voiced (TLJ fancies a threesome) and it looks like the straight-talking therapy may be wrecking rather than rescuing the marriage. The Devil Wears Prada director David Frankel has crafted a waspishly wise and funny comedy with Jones and Streep convincing as a couple so deeply in a rut they've lost touch with each other.
Tommy Lee Jones
If there's going to be new movie sub-genre called middle-aged sex comedy then this enjoyable outing from The Devil Wears Prada director Frankel kicks it off with, erm, a bang.
Middle-aged Omaha accountant Arnold (Jones) and his stay-at-home wife Kay (Streep) have been married for more than three decades...but the last time they had sex was almost five years ago.
He's a golf-mad sports fan who clings to the daily ritual of a full breakfast and then a peck on the cheek from wifey while she has dutifully found herself raising their kids and keeping home. They also sleep in different rooms after he put his back out.
Suddenly energised to revitalise their marriage, Kay invites (actually pleads) her husband to join her for an expensive week of intensive couples counselling in distant Maine.
Grumbling about the cost (they stay in an Econolodge in a town full of clapboard bijou B&Bs), Arnold unhesitatingly stonewalls the gentle probing of tweedy marriage counsellor Dr Feld (Carell, playing it straight).
However, fearful of upsetting Kay, he agrees to Feld's firm but sympathetic entreaties to restore some physical intimacy, a compromise that quickly leads him to closing down the emotional shutters,
To put it simply Jones and Streep are a subtle delight, a couple of seasoned veterans sublimely in tune with each other's performances. He nails the gruff denial of the alpha male when challenged while she conveys the hesitant concern of a good wife who wants a proper marriage again.
The sex is superbly awkward, particularly one scene where - having shelled out for a swanky guest house - Arnold's tentative seduction ends abruptly with one hesitant move as Streep is looking at her most Iron Lady-like.
It's not a laugh-out-loud comedy but one which entertains by virtue of wry looks, throwaway remarks, and the leads' peerless emotional authenticity.
Hope springs eternal? Well, this time it does.