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Prime

There's actually a very decent movie hidden inside Prime (2005). This mini-movie focuses exclusively on a 37-year-old photographer's assistant named Rafi (Uma Thurman) and her way-too-complicated relationship with her therapist Lisa (Meryl Streep). Two weeks after signing her divorce papers, Rafi tumbles into a May-December romance — actually, it's more like a July-October sex vacation — with a 23-year-old painter named David (Bryan Greenberg). Rafi knows there's a huge experiential gap between your 20s and 30s, and that the whole thing "smells of pool boy at Sandals Resort," but she's having fun. During therapy sessions, she mitigates her embarrassment by telling Lisa that David's 27. But there's a farcical hitch: Rafi doesn't know that David is Lisa's son. However, Lisa figured it out pretty quickly — and, for a whole bunch of reasons ranging from curiosity to sheer mortification, she lets Rafi keep rambling on about her sex life without revealing the relationship. When Prime stays focused on Rafi and Lisa, the movie's actually funny and cringe-inducing and well-acted. This is one of the loosest, sexiest, and most natural performances we've seen from Thurman, ever — she's absolutely luminous here. And Streep is funny and honest as a woman torn between professional ethics, her love for her son, her genuine affection for Rafi, and her desire to run a devoutly Jewish household where the morals diverge pretty wildly from therapy-speak. Unfortunately, this rich, well-written story about actual adults takes up maybe a third of Prime. The rest of the time, we're cutting to "meaningful" shots of the New York skyline, hanging out with David and Rafi as they act out scenes from the Relationship Cliché Playbook, or (even worse) hanging out with David and his best friend Morris (Jon Abrahams), a misogynist jackass who throws pies in the faces of women who won't sleep with him. David accompanies Morris on one of these hate-errands, and writer-director Ben Younger (Boiler Room) plays it for laughs. And David, though undeniably pretty, is an unlikable man-boy who makes absolutely no sense as a character. He loves Antonioni, hip-hop and Nintendo, yammers unfunnily in restaurants, mumbles like Justin Timberlake, and spends so much time fronting like an Ambercrombie & Fitch model and servicing Thurman that it's hard to know when he found the time to paint the meticulously studied portraits with which he's credited. Of course, David's immaturity is part of the point — as he puts it late in the film, "I wanna be the man you see in me every so often" — but he's a charmless abstraction of a young man, a set of attributes, and occasionally the sort of person you want to thwack with a shovel. They say 40 is the new 30, so perhaps that makes 23 the new 13 — and most folks would rather watch seasoned pros over a 13-year-old any day. Universal's DVD release of Prime feautres a good anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Director Ben Younger and producer Jennifer Todd offer a commentary track, while other extras include the featurette "Prime Time Players" (8 min.), a deleted scenes reel (8 min.), and outtakes (3 min.). Keep-case.
Mike Russell



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