starring Tommy Lee Jones, Meryl Streep and Steve Carell
written by Vanessa Taylor
directed by David Frankel
Kay and Arnold are a middle aged couple, married 31 years, with grown children who have left the home for their own lives. Now Kay feels her life and marriage are in a rut. She and Arnold have fallen into old habits that once served a purpose but which now Kay finds decidedly unsatisfying. It’s kind of funny to watch how Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep portray this couple. Anyway, Kay sets out to force a change in their marriage by buying a one-week intensive marriage counseling program in remote seaside Maine. She doesn’t consult Arnold about it beforehand, but simply presents him with a plane ticket and says “We’re going.” Arnold gives a good imitation of obliviousness. He is also a really grumpy asshole, something that Tommy Lee Jones pulls off beautifully because he’s got a such a grumpy-looking face.
There are things in this life you don’t say for a reason.
Steve Carell plays the therapist, and he plays it straight. Predictably with any marriage counseling scenario the talk comes around again and again to sex and intimacy, which have cooled over Arnold and Kay’s 31-years together. Arnold is by far the more reticent of the two when it comes to talking about their private lives. “There are things in this life you don’t say for a reason.” I agree with him 100% because contrary to common contemporary thinking, sharing personal things is NOT healthy!! This kind of marriage counseling is a reflection of currently popular American cultural trend towards revelation-voyeurism, exposure and publicity. To expose too much of oneself is NOT humanizing so much as it is dehumanizing. People with diminished privacy are diminished people.
I understand the thinking: that human beings are sexual creatures and therefore that sex and sexuality are not shameful but healthy; that retarded sexuality indicates retarded psychology, especially between married people, and so they are legitimate topics for counseling and therapy. Bullshit. When you get married you make a promise to persevere through better and worse. So if/when things turn towards the worse and you feel unhappy - for whatever reason - with the state of your marriage, so what? Unless there is illegal physical violence involved I don’t have much of an ear for couples’ complaints or dramatizations of their complaints because I know perfectly well what is happening. Selfishness is trying to assert itself as a virtue - abetted by the popular self-gratifying values of contemporary Me culture.
You want to know what marriage is? Marriage is like an endurance race to the bitter end. As soon as one spouse dies the survivor can cheer, “Yeah! I win!!”
When I was a teenager the idea of marriage really scared me because I thought, “My God! 50% of all marriages end up lasting forever!”
Love is not a victory march. It’s a cold and broken halleluiah.