Uma Thurman, Meryl Streep, and Bryan Greenberg in Prime (2005)


(director/writer: Ben Younger; cinematographer: William Rexer; editor: Kristina Boden; music: Ryan Shore; cast: Meryl Streep (Lisa Metzger), Uma Thurman (Rafi Gardet), Bryan Greenberg (David Bloomberg), Jon Abrahams (Morris), Zak Orth (Randall), Jerry Adler (Sam), Doris Belack (Blanch); Runtime: 105; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producer: Suzanne Todd/Jennifer Todd; Universal Pictures; 2005)
“All the characters are likeable and flawed (just like the genial film).”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Writer-director Ben Younger’s (“Boiler Room”) romantic comedy is set in a Manhattan inhabited by the middle-class. It runs with a Woody Allen storyline but its Jewish protagonist is not like his usual nebbish hero but somewhat of a stud. It brings a fluff story to a serious plot line that deals with interfaith relationships and a much older woman with a younger guy. Though it fails to bring anything new to the table the acting is first-class especially by Meryl Streep, negotiating comedy out of a possible tragedy, and a vibrant Uma Thurman as the problematic heroine who wrestles with love over age differences.

David (Bryan Greenberg) is a 23-year-old Jewish aspiring painter living with his grandparents, who works in advertising because his folks refuse to support him as a painter. Rafi (Uma Thurman) is a sexy 37-year-old shiksa divorcee who has a well-paying job in the fashion industry. She has been hurt by her unsuccessful marriage and is seeing a shrink to get back her emotional balance. Her therapist, Lisa Metzger (Meryl Streep), who uses her maiden name, turns out to be David’s mother and whose free-spirited advice given to her client is not the same given to her son whom she wishes to keep under a tight leash. Lisa becomes rattled when she learns that the new lover who makes Rafi happy is her son. Eventually cutting off the therapy, after hearing all the sordid sexual details, the film builds to whether the odds are stacked against the couple or if they can overcome their major obstacle–which turns out to be the age difference. Things come to a head when David is forced to leave his grandparents and move in with Rafi, and their relationship becomes more complicated than just a sexual one.

Prime gets a lot of mileage sticking with this mistaken identity plot line, but the dialogue remains cutesy smart and all the characters are likeable and flawed (just like the genial film) as even Streep’s character never moves into the monster category. She’s pushy because she was brought up thinking religion is paramount in one’s life and is not about to go against social conventions when it comes to raising her children. In that sense, despite the lightness of the film it touched on raw nerves for the middle-class and dished out enough comedy (almost entirely through Streep) and reality to satisfy for a mainstream film that never pushes the envelope to move into forbidden territory. Its only attempt at being an arthouse film was in how the couple met at a Cinema Village Antonioni double feature (“Blow- Up” and “Zabriskie Point”), implying that this young filmmaker at least knows there’s still much to learn from someone like Antonioni.


REVIEWED ON 10/30/2005 GRADE: B-