Romantic comedies follow a very specific formula: Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. So the challenge becomes sticking to the formula in a fresh and original way: something that keeps the characters apart and something spectacular that brings them back together. Well, picture this: Boy met girl 30-plus years ago and the thing keeping them apart is their marriage.
Kay (Meryl Streep) and Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) are married. To describe their marriage as ‘in a rut’ would be quite the understatement. Kay is prissy, Arnold is cranky. They sleep in separate bedrooms, and Arnold—seemingly contented—falls asleep each night in front of the golf channel. Kay is not happy—one can’t help but envision a well worn copy of Fifty Shades of Grey tucked in her nightstand. So on a whim, she books a week of couples counseling with marriage guru Dr. Feld (Steve Carell), a celebrity therapist who treats ailing couples at his quiet retreat in a cozy Maine hamlet.
I’m sure you can guess how it all unfolds—it is a formula, after all. I have to give huge props to Steve Carell here. He is an extremely funny man in a very unfunny role. He could have gone hippie-ponytail guy, or perverted sex-therapy guy, but he didn’t. He trusted the writing and let the real story—Kay and Arnold’s love story—unfold. I have to say most people, including myself, prefer to watch a romance take place with a younger couple, but with these two seasoned and compelling actors, the awkward sexual tension is charming and very funny. This isn’t my favorite Streep performance, but on her worst day… It’s a 7.