Rafi (Uma Thurman, "Kill Bill") is working through a painful divorce with her therapist, Dr. Metzger (Meryl Streep). Having just signed the divorce papers, Rafi goes out to a movie, with some friends, and meets David (Bryan Greenberg), a 23 year old struggling painter. David, immediately struck by Rafi's beauty, calls her for a date. Despite her misgivings about the age difference, she falls madly in love. During their sessions, Rafi tells Dr. Metzger all of the intimate details, except she lies about David's age, and Metzger encourages her to go along with the feelings, to have some fun. In another session, Rafi lets David's real age slip and Metzger realizes that Rafi is dating her son. Metzger decides to keep this a secret, no one else knows, so that she can continue treating Rafi. Soon, the `intimate details' begin to bother the therapist and everything comes to a comic conclusion.
"Prime", written and directed by Ben Younger ("Boiler Room") is a good, but uneven film, trying to do many things at once. At times, it works. At others, it doesn't.
In their review, Ebert and Roeper commented that David seemed to be a younger, hipper version of the character Woody Allen plays in so many of his films. The comparison is very appropriate.
In Allen's best films, he deftly combines the dramatic and comedic elements of relationship into a rich story exploring the lives of his characters. "Prime" is similar to this but it isn't as polished as Allen's best work. It desperately wants to be a more dramatic "Annie Hall" but the director can't pull it off.
The best part of the film is the depiction of the relationship between Rafi and David. The relationship seems real, as though it is based on a real life relationship. During their dates, when they fight and make-up, as they work through the problems with their relationship, you get the feeling that they are actually in love. This part of the film works well.
Metzger is a complicated character. On the one hand, she laments that her son hasn't met a nice Jewish girl and given her a lot of Jewish grandchildren. On the other hand, she happily tells her patient Rafi that she should date a younger man, forget about convention. This bit of Streep's character is amusing and interesting. But when she finds out that Rafi is dating her son, her character becomes more broad and less believable, kvetching about her son this, her son that. This is not one of Meryl Streep's best performances, and it pains me to say that, because I think Streep is a goddess.
Uma Thurman is quite good as the confused older woman who falls madly in love with the younger, more romantic David. She manages to convince us that her character is vulnerable, yet strong. I did find it a bit odd that she would meet David on the night she signed her divorce papers and immediately jump into a new relationship with the young man. But once their relationship begins, it is clear that they are both very much in love.
Bryan Greenberg is good. He is entirely convincing as the young artist; attentive and romantic, he also has his moments where he feels confined and restricted. His problems dealing with his more religious Jewish family are interesting and, at times, amusing. Again, these moments make him seem all the more like a younger, more assured version of Woody Allen's character.
My biggest problem with "Prime" is that the film interjects moments of broad comedy into a film that is desperately trying to be a more serious romantic comedy/ drama. For every scene of David taking Rafi to his work, to eat take-out in front of a real Mark Rothko painting that she loves, we get a scene of Streep's Metzger lying on a couch hyperventilating because she knows things about her patient and son that she isn't supposed to know. For every scene of David and Rafi at a party with her co-workers, as David deals with the new element, we get a scene of David's best friend throwing another cream pie into the face of a woman who he went on one date with. The two elements just don't mesh well enough. The key to Allen's best films is that the two elements were usually separated, if not by characters, by scene. One scene would deal with two characters in a serious way, the next would feature Allen and one of his co-stars in a funny situation. In "Prime", all three main characters are involved in both the funny and dramatic, requiring the two parts of the story to be equally absorbing and equally successful. They aren't.
The trailer really does a disservice to "Prime". It makes the film seem funnier than it actually is, downplaying the romantic and dramatic elements. It also ruins the big surprise in the film, the one moment that all of the comedy is based on. Not a great move.
"Prime" is a mixed effort with good points and bad. If you like one of the two lead actresses, catch a bargain matinee. If not, catch the DVD.