The Dinner: Pulled pork sandwich and mac n' cheese, at Pinky's Kitchen (210 NE 45th St.).
The Movie: Hope Springs, at Seven Gables Theatre (911 NE 50th St.).
The Screenplate: Hope Springs is not your typical romantic comedy where young, hot 20-somethings fall madly in love to a killer soundtrack and then presumably live happily ever. Rather, Hope Springs is the sequel to the aforementioned romantic comedy that describes the aftermath of first love 30 years later, after the magic had faded and intimacy means just a goodbye peck on the cheek and sleeping in separate bedrooms.Kay (Meryl Streep) and Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) play the middle-aged couple who, despite being devoted to each other, have just lost that spark. Their lives revolve around Kay making pot roast for dinner, followed by Arnold falling asleep on the recliner watching the Golf Channel. When Kay learns of a week-long intensive couples therapy session with Dr. Feld (Steve Carell) in Hope Springs, Maine, Arnold grudgingly agrees to attend with her. The two head off to the picturesque town to strip away years of built-up emotional walls and try to renew a sense of intimacy. The sessions are no picnic, and conflict ensues as Kay and Arnold work through marital issues as sensitive as unspoken sexual fantasies and as serious as feeling forgotten in a 30-year marriage.
While Hope Springs has its funny moments, it is by no means a comedy; for every laugh, I found myself tearing up. Streep is known for nailing diverse roles, from a Danish baroness in 1985's Out of Africa to a nun in 2008's Doubt. Hope Springs is no exception, and Streep does a phenomenal job portraying the cute, suburban Kay, an archetype for wives whose marriages have gone stale and crave not just intimacy, but love.
For his part, Jones moves out of his comfort zone of action and sci-fi genre films (The Fugitive and Men in Black), and it's a refreshing break. Jones' character believes that marriage is not just about fleeting passion, but sticking out the redundancy of everyday life.
Although I was the sole representative of the under-55 age bracket at my film showing, Hope Springs is still relatable, because it tries to capture what makes relationships real and worthwhile, which is a subject that crosses age boundaries. In one therapy session, Kay says you don't know how awful it is to not be able to touch someone you love, or to live with them, yet feel alone. Many people feel that being lonely is reserved for those who are single, but Hope Springs is a reminder of the pain that can come from a relationship that is "just getting along," but not flourishing.
While Carell is a main player in this film, he surprisingly did not provide the comic relief. Instead, Jones' grumpiness brings liveliness, as he gripes about money, such as spending $11.75 on a diner breakfast special of eggs and bacon. As expected in a marriage therapy movie starring actors in their 60s, there are plenty of references to old people having sex. Particularly funny scenes include Kay wandering into a bookstore asking for a book titled Sex Tips for Straight Women from a Gay Man and consequently practicing hand jobs on tubes of meat in a grocery store.
When experiencing, or in this case watching, relationship troubles unfold, one always reaches for comfort food to soothe emotional pains. Common picks include full-fat ice cream or highly caloric entrees, such as mashed potatoes or mac n' cheese. If you're looking for the latter, Pinky's Kitchen is the place to go. The barbecue-themed food truck's main offerings are pulled pork, brisket, and chicken sandwiches and sliders. All sandwiches come with a choice of six different BBQ sauces, Pinky's original and honey tamarind being real winners. The Honey Tamarind is made with soy sauce, honey, and tamarind twist, which adds a richness to the meat, without being overly sweet.
I opt for a pulled pork sandwich, which is loaded with succulent strips of barbecued meat on a soft, doughy ciabatta roll. The meat is slightly charred and crispy on the outside, but sweet and juicy on the inside with just the right amount of fat still on the bone. This gut-busting sandwich is not for those on a diet. Of course, if you're wallowing in a failing relationship, like Kay, dieting is the furthest thing from your mind.