Maybe Sandra Bullock knew something. I recall reading in the papers when she withdrew from the
lead role in the film PRIME shortly before filming began. There seemed to be notes of incredulity in the tone
of the articles; after all, her co-star was Meryl Streep! How could Ms. Bullock possibly say no to working
to her? Short answer: she withdrew because of script concerns. It turns out she knew what she was doing.
Uma Thurman was tapped at the eleventh hour to replace Ms. Bullock and Ms. Thurman works mightily
to inject some life into this mishmash of a romantic comedy. She is cast as Rafi (short for Rafaella), a 37-year-old
recent divorcee whose biological clock is ticking loudly and who, like many residents of New York, has a
therapist, in this case, Lisa Metzger (Ms. Streep). The two women share a nice bond and the scenes of their
sessions together, while familiar, do crackle.
Conflict arises when Rafi begins to date a 23-year-old artist wannabe named David (Bryan Greenberg)
who has issues with his overly protective Jewish mother and is currently residing near the Lower East Side with
his grandparents. As anyone who has seen the trailer or a commercial for the film knows, David’s mother is
Lisa. So part of the humor stems from the moment Ms. Streep’s character realizes that Rafi’s David – about
whom she describes very intimate matters – is actually her son. Lisa has admiration and affection for her patient –
but she certainly doesn’t see her as a potential in-law. Rafi has several strikes against her: her age, the fact that
she’s divorced, and then there’s the matter of her not being Jewish. On paper, it would seem there’s a gold mine
for comic exploration, but in Mr. Younger’s screenplay, some of the jokes fall flat or worse -- rely on stereotype.
Mr. Younger made a rather auspicious debut with 2000’s BOILER ROOM, but like many filmmakers,
he has fallen victim to the sophomore slump. While Ms. Thurman is a different physical type than Ms. Bullock,
she is an inspired choice for the part. She and Ms. Streep play beautifully off one another. Thurman even manages
to make one believe that she might be interested in the rather tepid David (blandly brought to life to Mr. Greeberg).
Ms. Streep, though, actually delivers a performance that is off-key. Her characterization is full of tics that fail
to allow this gifted actress to create a fully rounded character. Instead, she essays a caricature.
On paper PRIME must have sounded like a terrific idea. In execution, it’s a mishmash that only intermittently
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content including dialogue, and for language
Running time: 105 mins.
Viewed at Loews 84th Street Theater
|© 2005 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.