Film Review **: Not Quite ‘Prime’ Material
Witty Lines and Intimate Insight Get Bogged Down in This Romantic Comedy
By Danbee Kim
Directed by Ben Younger
Screenplay by Ben Younger
Starring Uma Thurman, Meryl Streep, Bryan Greenberg
It’s a love story with the finest smattering of smart, funny lines that could pull laughs from any audience. The acting is superb, and the story is intriguing. But there is a wistful sluggishness to Focus Features’ newest movie, “Prime,” which just barely falls short of delivering a really memorable movie experience.
Rafi (Uma Thurman) is a 37-year-old career woman living in Manhatten and seeing a therapist about her recent divorce. Dave (Bryan Greenberg) is a talented 23-year-old painter from Brooklyn. Despite the large age gap, the two fall in love. Rafi’s therapist Lisa (Meryl Streep) — who is part counselor, part Jewish mother — does her best to guide her patient with ginger care through Rafi’s post-divorce slump and urgent awareness of her ticking biological clock. Lisa encourages Rafi’s new fling, reasoning that although this relationship may not be the right one for long-term, it would do Rafi some good to have a little fun.
However, Lisa begins to find it hard to listen to details of Rafi’s love life after she realizes that the man Rafi has fallen for is really her son, Dave. You can just imagine her comic reactions to that one. Lisa struggles to maintain a good therapist-patient relationship, but the secret is soon out, and complication after complication swirls around the couple, who are battered by culture clashes, restrained arguments, and an absolute storm of opinions from family and friends.
Uma Thurman delivers a wonderful performance as a career-driven woman with a few intense pet peeves, who nonetheless loves being in love and desperately wants a family of her own. Bryan Greenberg complements her both physically and emotionally on screen, and brings a heartwarmingly na ve and boyish awkwardness to the character of Dave, who does a lot of growing up and self-discovery through the film. Meryl Streep, as always, gives a brilliant performance on screen, drawing laughs with her comic reactions to her son’s love life and delivering lines with quiet power in the more emotional or psychological scenes.
The setup is intriguing enough to bait an audience with both the assumption that Rafi and Dave’s relationship is inevitable and the anticipation for what will break loose when the whole truth is out. The story is well written, and there are so many brilliant comic moments, ranging from visually ironic scenes to the perfectly timed one-liners. But while some parts of the movie are a subtle shaping of the story, this subtlety sometimes turns just plain boring in places where the pace slows to a barely decent crawl. In between those moments of comedic brilliance and memorable scenes of soft but not too sappy sentimentality, audience members walk away feeling as though they missed half the film. The cinematography does little in an artistic sense; in fact, it’s almost too bland to even consider its existence in this film. Very little about this movie stood out as creative, artistic, or even innovative.
That being said, the ending does give audiences a twist from the usual endings of romantic comedies. Not only are Rafi and Dave a fantastic on-screen couple, but the blossoming friendship between Rafi and Lisa is another excellent character development and commentary on the many relationships that complete a person’s life. However, though “Prime” has moments of glory to bask in, the package as a whole isn’t much to get worked up over.