© 2005 Ray Wong
Stars: Meryl Streep, Uma Thurman, Bryan Greenberg, Jon Abrahams, Zak Orth
Director: Ben Younger
Writer: Ben Younger
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, language, adult themes
Running time: 105 minutes
Script – 6
Performance – 7
Direction – 7
Cinematography – 7
Editing – 7
Production – 7
Total Score – 7.0 out of 10
The trailers of PRIME give the impression that this is a laugh-out-loud romantic comedy. In truth, PRIME is a humorous drama that examines relationships with regard to differences in age, intimacy, religions and cultural backgrounds.
The title, PRIME, alludes to the fact that the two romantic leads are each at their respective sexual prime. Rafi (Thurman) is a 37-year-old fashion designer who suffers self-esteem issues and is seeking psychotherapy. A week after her heartbreaking divorce, she meets sweet and cute David (Greenberg) and they hit it off immediately. At first Rafi thinks David is 29 and a little too young for her, and when she discovers that David is actually 23, she freaks out. But the attraction between them is so strong, and David makes her feel so young and alive and loved that she throws caution in the air. Also, she has her dear, trusting therapist, Dr. Lisa Metzger (Streep), to confide in.
Rafi has no idea that David is Lisa’s young son. She shares every intimate detail with Lisa during her sessions, and asks for her opinion. Before long, Lisa figures out who “David” really is and she freaks out. But she truly, sincerely cares about Rafi’s wellbeing, thinking that it is just a May-December fling between David and Rafi. She sticks around and tries to be the non-judging therapist she is, despite her own issues dealing with information about her own son’s sex life, and the fact that he’s dating a woman 14 years his senior. Worse, Rafi’s not a Jew!
The premise sounds hilarious enough. And some scenes, especially between Rafi and Lisa, are in fact hilarious. But the film is, at its very core, a serious drama about romance and relationships – not only between lovers, but also between parent and child.
Streep (LEMONY SNICKET’S A SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS) proves that she could do comedies as effortlessly as she could dramas. Well, it’s not fair to peg her role as comedic, since she has some fine dramatic moments; but seeing her squirm and twitch and fluster while listening to Rafi describing her son’s “beautiful penis” is well worth the price. Streep is a seasoned actor, and she handles the conflicted character very well. Thurman (BE COOL) is also excellent, playing the middle-aged woman in love with a man almost half her age with equal doses of self-pity, maturity and giddiness. It helps that she truly is gorgeous, even at her age. Her chemistry and timing with Streep are impeccable.
Greenberg (PERFECT SCORE) holds his own against the two veteran actresses. He is handsome, charming and loving, and you believe that a 37-year-old woman could really fall for him. Then when he acts like a child, you also believe him so much that you just want to scream, “Grow up already!” Abrahams (HOUSE OF WAX) is funny in his minor role as David’s womanizing jerk of a close friend, Morris. Now, why would David hang out with a punk like Morris is not entirely clear – they can’t be more different.
Writer-director Younger’s (BOILER ROOM) script is uneven. At times this feels like an out-and-out romantic comedy or a satire. At times it feels like a family drama. However, Younger’s dialogue is usually true and spot-on, and he handles the complex relationships with interesting insight. Some of scenes and dialogue are really funny. And some touching.
Still, I think the work is uneven. The characters of Rafi and Lisa are very well written, and their relationship is rendered beautifully. Coupled with the wonderful chemistry and performances of Streep and Thurman, the scenes between Rafi and Lisa are the best things about this film. Unfortunately, when the focus switches to Rafi and David, the film somehow sags and drags.
It’s not entirely Younger’s fault, nor is it Thurman’s or Greenberg’s. I suppose what’s between Streep and Thurman is so strong that everything else just pales in comparison. Still, as much as I’d like to believe that a May-December relationship is possible, or as much as Younger wants us to believe that such a relationship would end badly, it doesn’t quite work on screen. Thurman and Greenberg are terrific actors, but their chemistry is off, even if so slightly. Again, Thurman and Streep are so good together that we just want to see more of them. If only the film focuses more on Streep and less on Greenberg (sorry, pal, nothing against ya), it would have, indeed, be a prime film to behold.