Despite a comic <I>Yiddishe</I> mama turn by Meryl Streep and a sensitively nuanced perf by Uma Thurman in a convincing changeup from her recent kickass action roles, "Prime" remains an oddly juiceless older woman-younger man romance, with a Freudian twist.

Lisa Metzger - Meryl Streep Rafi Gardet - Uma Thurman David Bloomberg - Bryan Greenberg Morris - Jon Abrahams Randall - Zak Orth Katherine - Annie Parisse

Despite a comic Yiddishe mama turn by Meryl Streep and a sensitively nuanced perf by Uma Thurman in a convincing changeup from her recent kickass action roles, “Prime” remains an oddly juiceless older woman-younger man romance, with a Freudian twist. Lead actresses acquit themselves swimmingly, generating believable chemistry and plenty of estrogen, with boychik Bryan Greenberg also passing muster. But secondary characters, drearily one-dimensional, die on the vine in a slick but cliche script by writer-director Ben Younger (“Boiler Room”) that narratively hedges its bets. Even for femme auds, “Prime,” skedded to open Oct. 28, rates a cut below grade A.

Rafi (Thurman) has just terminated a loveless nine-year marriage and is dependent on her shrink, Lisa Metzger (Streep), for friendship and support. That support is seriously threatened when Rafi starts dating and sleeping with David (Greenberg), who happens to be Metzger’s son (a fact Metzger discovers but which is unknown to everyone else).

Rafi wrestles with the problems inherent in a relationship with a much younger man, from his adolescent reluctance to clean the apartment when he moves in to his occasional preference for Nintendo over sex. Meanwhile, would-be artist David, who lived with his grandparents and was discouraged from taking his painting seriously, strives to hide the full extent of his immaturity from his stylish, sophisticated paramour.

Metzger, the most conflicted character, finds her genuine affection for Rafi to be jeopardized — Metzger’s liberal, laissez-faire acceptance of her patient’s sexuality turns out to be at odds with her motherly fear of shiksas and need to control her son.

The Modern Romantic Comedy has become more elusive than the Great American Novel these days, and, in his updated spin, helmer-scribe Younger has baited viewers with one too many hooks. The course of true love is doubly roughed by the fact that the lovers are not only separated by age (she is a gorgeous-looking 37, he a hunky-but-sensitive 23) but religion as well. Streep’s rather broad interpretation of the “Jewish mother,” with its fine comic flourishes, would play beautifully except for the fact that she’s surrounded by a family of flat, joyless caricatures that sap the ethnic juices out of the whole religious “dilemma.”

Thurman, on her side, exists in an equally one-note milieu of rich gay men friends, snooty in-people and sterile open spaces (stark, vast art galleries or studio haute couture shoots) that generally signal WASPdom as the absence of local color. Only Annie Parisse, as one of Thurman’s svelte, fashion industry friends, manages to breathe life into her severely limited sidekick role.

The same cannot be said of David’s boyhood chum Morris (John Abrahams) who, in lieu of a personality, is granted a propensity to anoint ex-girlfriends with custard pies in a running gag that gets less and less funny. Greenberg, a relative unknown, actually succeeds in essaying the difficult, seemingly oxymoronic role of sexy mama’s boy David.

But film’s main focus is the relationship between the two gals, as Streep and Thurman’s obvious enjoyment in playing off each other enhances their double entendre-laden psychiatric sessions. Rafi’s ingenuous, wonderfully delivered concerns about robbing the cradle and confidences about her young lover’s sexual prowess are received by Dr. Metzger with nicely mingled therapeutic encouragement and maternal horror. At the same time, the frumpified, Joy Behar-esque Streep and the blond, willowy, va-va-voom-y Thurman rep two separate aspects of the same woman, the matriarchal and sexual sides comically dialoguing at cross-purposes.

Unfortunately, Younger’s decision to foreground his stars against an underwritten, poorly thesped sea of mediocrity serves not to empower their portrayals but to strand them. Even pic’s relatively lucid denouement is sabotaged by Younger’s need to validate all his characters’ possible choices: The helmer appears as loath to endorse May-December romances or mixed-religious pairings as he is to criticize them.

Tech credits are impressively polished, particularly in pic’s understated use of Gotham locations, nicely textured in William Rexer’s lensing. Ryan Shore’s score and Jim Black’s music selections, however, are often annoyingly intrusive.


Production: A Universal release of a Universal Pictures, Stratus Film Co. presentation of a Team Todd/Younger Than You production. Produced by Suzanne Todd, Jennifer Todd. Executive producers, Mark Gordon, Bob Yari. Co-producers, Brad Jenkel, Anthony Katagas. Directed, written by Ben Younger.

Crew: Camera (Technicolor, widescreen), William Rexer; editor, Kristina Boden; music, Ryan Shore; music supervisor, Jim Black; production designer, Mark Ricker; art director, Paul Kelly; set decorator, Carol Silverman; costume designer, Melissa Toth; sound (Dolby Digital/SDDS/DTS), Tod A. Maitland; supervising sound editor, Paul P. Soucek; assistant director, Michael Lerman; casting, Ellen Lewis. Reviewed at Loews Kips Bay, New York, Oct. 11, 2005. (In Mill Valley Film Festival.) MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 105 MIN.

With: Lisa Metzger - Meryl Streep Rafi Gardet - Uma Thurman David Bloomberg - Bryan Greenberg Morris - Jon Abrahams Randall - Zak Orth Katherine - Annie Parisse

More Film

  • Naomi Watts Thriller 'The Wolf Hour'

    Naomi Watts Thriller 'The Wolf Hour' Picked Up for U.S. by Brainstorm Media

    “The Wolf Hour,” a psychological thriller starring Naomi Watts and Jennifer Ehle, has been picked up for North America by Brainstorm Media. HanWay Films has also closed sales for a host of European and Asian territories. Directed by Alistair Banks Griffin, “The Wolf Hour” features Oscar-nominated Watts as June, a former countercultural celebrity who lives [...]

  • A Star Is Born

    'A Star Is Born' Soundtrack Surpasses Global Sales of 6 Million

    Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper’s onscreen chemistry continues to be felt on the official soundtrack to “A Star is Born,” which just surpassed 6 million albums sold globally and has been certified double platinum in the U.S. Released by Interscope Records in 2018, the album debuted atop the charts and remains the highest-selling album of [...]

  • monty-python-are-fifty-in-2019

    Previously Unreleased Monty Python Audio to Get Airing for Troupe's 50th Anniversary

    Michael Palin will exec-produce series of radio specials containing never-before-released audio from Monty Python as part of the 50th anniversary celebrations for the iconic comedy troupe. They will play on the BBC in the U.K. and then go out in the U.S. Palin and his fellow Pythons – John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry [...]

  • The Eight Hundred (The 800)

    Huayi Brothers' Stock Falls 8% After 'The Eight Hundred' Cancellation

    Huayi Brothers’ stock fell by more than 8% on Wednesday, the day after the veteran Chinese studio announced that its new war epic, “The Eight Hundred,” will not hit Chinese theaters as scheduled next week. Shares dropped from RMB5.48 to RMB5.02 overnight after Huayi said Tuesday that its summer blockbuster’s theatrical debut would be indefinitely [...]

  • Chinese actor Xu Zheng holds his

    Golden Horse Organizers Set Clashing Date With China's Golden Rooster Awards

    The prestigious Golden Horse Awards announced Wednesday that it will hold its annual ceremony in Taiwan on the same day this year as China’s Communist-backed Golden Rooster Awards – which virtually assures that no major mainland Chinese talent will attend the event known as Asia’s Oscars on November 23. Hong Kong director Johnnie To will [...]

  • Berlin Film Festival Placeholder Berlinale

    Key Berlin Film Festival Venue Set to Close - or Is It?

    The announcement that German exhibitor CineStar would close its multiplex at Berlin’s famed Sony Center in Potsdamer Platz has thrown the cinema’s participation as a key venue for the Berlin Film Festival into doubt. Whether it actually shutters, however, remains to be seen. British-based Vue International is awaiting approval from German antitrust officials on its [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content