Hope Springs: a springboard for discussion

Let’s talk about the film Hope Springs. It’s an excellent springboard for talking abut senior sex and communication. If you’ve seen it and you’re part of our boomer/ senior/ elder generation, would you help me get the discussion going right here on this blog?

I hope you’ll read my discussion with writer David Templeton about the film in the Pacific Sun. Here are excerpts — and click here for the complete article.  (Warning: spoiler alert.)

“What bothered me, at first,” Price says, “was that the filmmakers seemed to be making fun of something that is an enormous issue for seniors, something that isn’t really a laughing matter. I couldn’t see what Kay [Streep] saw in Arnold [Jones], and I couldn’t understand how two people in their 60s, in 2012, ended up with this 1950s-style marriage. They sleep in separate rooms, they never talk, she does all the cooking and cleaning even though they both have full-time jobs, they don’t talk about anything except his job and golf, and they never do anything together—and by anything I especially mean…sex.”

…”What was wonderful about the film,” Price says, “once it got to Hope Springs and the therapy sessions, was that it settled down and took its time to flesh out some very real concerns and fears that older people have. At first we think that Arnold is the one who turned away from Kay, but then she admits that it was she who stopped having sex with him. But by then, after she started to miss it, there were so many hurt feelings and misunderstandings between them, that it was just a big mess.”

…”It actually bothered me a little,” says Price, “that Dr. Feld didn’t suggest that they get a medical opinion. If something changes in a man’s sex drive, there is often a medical reason. Men don’t stop wanting sex overnight, even if their wife did turn them down one or two times too often. That might happen gradually, but if it’s sudden, then a man really needs to see a doctor. In this movie, we learn that he’s having erectile problems, and is afraid to put it to the test, so he avoids sex. But erectile problems could be an indication of heart disease, or diabetes, or any number of other treatable diseases. That message was never put into the movie, and it should have been, by the therapist, if no one else.”

…”I wonder,” asks Price, “if, at any point in this couple’s history, there was ever any sex between them that was for her pleasure? The therapist even—and this completely shocked me—asked if she’d ever had orgasms…’vaginal or otherwise.’ Excuse me? Orgasms come from the clitoris. Was this guy trained in the 1940s? 

What are your views about the movie, the sex education in it, the realism? Please comment. It’s great if you use a first name (it doesn’t have to be your own) when you comment instead of “Anonymous” — just so we can address each other if we want to bounce off each other’s ideas. I look forward to reading your comments.

I also encourage you to talk about it with your partner if you have one, with your friends, with anyone who will participate. That’s my mission after all — to talk out loud about senior sex — and this film lubricates the topic, so to speak.


  1. Joan Price on September 28, 2012 at 3:20 am

    Anonymous, what a wise and profound comment. Thank you for taking the time to think this through and share it with us. Who knows how someone would have turned out with a different partner, or had circumstances been different. Certainly I've felt that I've grown in different ways with the people I've loved, and had they not been in my life, I'd be different today. I thank them for that. On the other hand, someone who lets love and commitment slip out of his/her grasp will close up. And if two people who knew each other previously reconnect, how will that affect who they are today and in the future? How will that be different from how they would have been if they had always been together? (Where's that movie when we need it?)

  2. Anonymous on September 28, 2012 at 2:08 am

    …about a month late in responding but….I recently had lunch with an old flame who has been married for 30 years,now in his 60s, with 2 children leaving the nest. His marriage sounded alot like Kay and Arnold. Somehow, over the years, my friend and his wife lost each other. They may never divorce but they may ever find a way back, either. It's not just about the sex, though the lack of that also seems to have unglued them in some elemental way. I think that was also the part of the movie I had the most difficulty with – for Kay and Arnold it couldn't have been just the sex as they seemed to share so little..but perhaps finding that pleasure again, would allow them to explore other areas that must have drawn them together.

    As an earlier girlfriend, looking at him from a 30 year distance, I must say I was struck by how many things I did not see in him when we were young and together. Was I too besotted and naive to notice, or did these develop over time, and in the relationship he was in, that has led to he and his wife's current estrangement. That's what I was most struck by – when I had a 'what if?' moment, as I gazed at him, it was quickly followed by a silent acknowledgement of how complex love, communication, and togetherness is in late life. I know that if I had the opportunity to be with him now, knowing him then, it would not be the same two people we were in our 30s.

  3. Joan Price on August 30, 2012 at 5:15 am

    Diane, when I saw it in Santa Rosa, CA, the audience was mostly over 60, but people didn't laugh inappropriately. Maybe they already knew what to expect. I agree that the relationship was very sad.

    How interesting that your husband wants to see it, but not go to a theater to see it. Hmmm!

    Thank you for sharing your views,

    – Joan

  4. Anonymous on August 30, 2012 at 2:31 am

    What surprised me about the movie was the audience reaction. The audience was almost exclusively middle-aged, except for my mother, who is in her 80s.

    I found the relationship between Kay and Arnold to be heartbreaking and found myself tearing up a little as I felt the loneliness of the main characters. The audience was expecting a 100% comedy and for the first 30 minutes, everyone laughed at situations that made me sad.

    Mother seemed uncomfortable at the idea that sex can still be a desirable thing as we age. I will say that we had the most frank and honest discussion we have ever had.

    My husband says he won't go see it in the theater, but would like to when it comes into general distribution. I'm interested to see what he will think.


  5. Joan Price on August 29, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    Marji, I appreciate your candor. A good therapist can make all the difference in helping you save and re-establish a relationship when it seems impossible, yet the love is still there. I agree that the big value of a movie like this is that it encourages to discuss these issues with each other.

    — Joan

  6. MarjiB60 on August 29, 2012 at 6:37 pm

    I loved this movie. I was Kay and I was married to Arnold, very pathetic. To Unknown, it is astonishing to me that I got to that point in my marriage because I thought I was modern in every other way! We are no longer Kay and Arnold because my husband did have sex outside our marriage with prostitutes. It took a lot of counseling and a lot of work to get back on track but it was worth it. We have a good sex life again as we did years ago. This movie could not possibly address all that goes into a sex life that has totally disappeared, but it made me laugh and it is bringing the subject up and that is what is needed because surprisingly there are Kays and Arnolds out there even in 2012! Marjorie

  7. Joan Price on August 29, 2012 at 3:47 pm

    Oh, Bonnie, this is so perceptive and eloquent! You are absolutely on target. Thank you for taking the time to write this, and I hope others will respond, too.

    – Joan

  8. Unknown on August 29, 2012 at 12:06 pm

    The movie was a mixed bag. It was probably a challenge for the makers to keep it real & warm, while not too heavy or preachy. Being 63 years old, I appreciated that these famous actors let themselves and their aging faces and bodies be really seen, and was surprised by how uncomfortable that made me. What always surprises me in movies (and discussions on aging) like this is that the focus is almost always on sex. Yes, sex is important (that is why I visit this wonderful blog!), but really – it is almost always, at base, about the relationship. Maintaining or starting an intimate relationship at this stage of life is a real challenge, because the issues of love, sex, aging, and just plain relating to each other are so different from when we were younger. It is these challenges, and an unwillingness to look at them, or even realize they exist, that stymie aging couples. My sense is that we continue to operate from a 20 or 30 year-old mindset regarding love and relationships – this was evident in the movie, because the focus was more on this couple "getting the spark back", without much of a nod to the complexities of what it means to age in our culture, with someone you wed at age 20-something. We see ourselves and our partners differently and we are seen differently in our culture after we hit 60, and this impacts our intimate relationships. I'd be so interested to hear from others on this subject. Bonnie

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