Prime

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Prime illustrates that sharp writing and good casting can overcome a story that strains credibility to the breaking point. The main plot point of this film depends on a series of coincidences akin to getting struck by lightning on the same day you win the Powerball lottery. Fortunately, the actors and the characters they inhabit hold our empathy enough that we almost don’t notice.

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Rafi (Uma Thurman) is a 37-year-old recent divorcee working through her sense of failure with Lisa (Meryl Streep), her therapist. Her ex-husband’s sudden fatherhood and remarriage has also made Rafi acutely aware of the ticking of her own biological clock. She encounters a struggling artist named Dave (Bryan Greenberg) at the movies and he asks her out the next night. Since it’s Uma Thurman, who can blame him? On their date, a rather inconvenient fact emerges: Bryan is 23 years old, but Rafi finds him charming, funny and sweet enough to over look that fault.

Another major hurdle comes to our attention but the characters are left unaware of it for the first half of the film. Namely, Bryan is Lisa’s son (she uses a different last name professionally). Even before she knows her son is dating his patient, she is disapproving because his new mystery girlfriend is not Jewish, which Lisa believes is the most important criteria for any future wife of her son’s.

Of course, the odds that Rafi would, out all the men in New York City, start dating Lisa’s son are long enough, but compounding that is the fact it both parties go as long as they do without somehow mentioning names or other details that would spill the beans to Lisa about the nature of their relationship.

Fortunately, the characters of Rafi, David and Lisa are sharply observed individuals and their relationships with each other have a ring of reality that helps offset any holes in the believability of the plot. The film doesn’t gloss the strains caused by David’s relative immaturity and reluctance to commit, and when Lisa reveals that she has gone on treating Rafi despite knowing of her relationship with David, her error in judgment has real emotional consequences for all three. It also has the confidence not force a happy ending and the penultimate break-up scene has an uncomfortably familiar feel of reality.

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Bryan Greenberg acquits himself adequately but he’s definitely outshone by his co-stars. Uma Thurman is both sexy and vulnerable while Streep plays judgmental and meddling without being either a cliché or unsympathetic. She also proves that top-drawer actors can do comedy with completely debasing their skills or reputation. Are you listening, Robert DeNiro?

With women as its two strongest characters, Prime definitely qualifies as “chick flick” material but its well-drawn characters and solid acting make it a date movie that a guy can see without fighting the urge to put out his own eyes.

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