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PRIME
U.S. Release Date: October 28, 2005
Distributor: Universal
Producer: Mark Gordon (executive), Bob Yari (executive)
Cast: Uma Thurman, Meryl Streep
Running Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (on appeal for sexual content including dialogue, and for language)

Relationship Comedy Too Eager to Please Mom
by Scott Holleran

The year's worst breach of medical ethics in pictures goes to Prime, a harmless, ineffective update of Summer of '42, taking the older woman / younger man affair to the Upper West Side instead of the beach, with gorgeous Uma Thurman replacing gorgeous Jennifer O'Neill. The leggy Pulp Fiction star does her best to convince us that she would fall for a 23-year-old artist from Brooklyn (Bryan Greenberg).

Thurman's deft performance is not enough in a movie that, despite the couple's chemistry, is overly dependent on a gimmick that the young male's mother (Meryl Streep) is psychotherapist to Thurman's 37-year-old divorcee. Prime presumably refers to the fact that each sex partner—which is what these two dogs in heat are because they sure don't behave as adults—is in the midst of their sexual prime.

Greenberg's insecure painter, whose ghetto paintings curiously resemble the opening credit artwork of CBS' Good Times, meets Thurman in line at the movies and, after he dumps his girlfriend in plain view—the first clue that this guy's a walking used condom—he seduces her. Age difference scenes ring true, such as when she spends the night at his place for the first time—with grandmother calling his name—but, whenever the movie runs out of ideas, it cuts to boilerplate sex, which is all these two have going for them, besides her cat, which steals every scene.

Covering every cliché and fulfilling every wish—like matching his and hers mini-fantasies—mother (domineering Streep doing Sally Jessy Raphael) shows up as both Thurman's therapist and Greenberg's mom, unbeknownst to either one of them. Mom's a hypocrite, an observant Jew, and the most irresponsible counselor since Streisand hopped in the sack with Nick Nolte in The Prince of Tides. She strings her patient along, catching every detail of her son's anatomy, and lies to everyone, including her husband, about her moral transgression.

Though Streep does her usual overly mannered shtick—touching herself, playing with mountains of big costume jewelry, fidgeting—and she snags a few laughs, her character's bad conduct is magnified by her forced acting, and it ruins the humor. That leaves us with Thurman and her vacant young stud, a nice enough guy, but, unless you're dying for Jewish mother jokes, it makes no difference.

It must be mentioned that there's another annoying best friend character, who gets his jollies humiliating women he dates, and Prime, which is funny in spots, most of them age or family related, makes a few cracks at the expense of blacks and gays.

Maybe it's supposed to be acceptable because, in its own way, Prime is religious, tacitly urging people to reject dating outside the faith. By the time the predictable, bittersweet boy meets world lesson is rendered—when Greenberg's character finally exhibits the maturity of an NBA player—he is magically, suddenly, wearing a yarmulke. Too self-conscious, too gimmicky and too distracted by Streep's characterization, Prime fails to make a break through.


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