Prime (2005) / Romance-Drama

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for sexual content and language (on appeal from an original R rating)
Running Time: 105 min.

Cast: Uma Thurman, Bryan Greenberg, Meryl Streep, Jon Abrahams, Aubrey Dollar, Annie Parisse, Gil Deeble, Doris Belack
Director: Ben Younger
Screenplay: Ben Younger

Prime ostensibly gets its title from the theory that men reach their sexual prime in their early adulthood, while women hit it as they approach 40.  Writer-director Ben Younger (Boiler Room) goes a step further in this theme by making the ages of his characters ďprime numbersĒ.  Although younger man/older woman romances arenít anything new in the world of cinema, they are rare enough for the film to carry a certain momentum from the novelty, and Younger does manage to introduce the additional religious hook to the film to further drive a wedge between the two would-be lovers.

Recently divorced 37-year-old Rafi (Thurman, Be Cool) is having trouble coping with her newly single existence, so much so that she must make regular visits to see her shrink, a middle-aged Jewish woman named Lisa (Streep, A Series of Unfortunate Events).  Her feelings of loneliness dissipate when she meets and begins to enjoy the company of a much younger man, a 23-year-old named Dave (Greenberg, The Perfect Score) , She feels guilty because he is so young, but Lisa encourages the relationship not knowing that Rafiís Dave is actually Lisaís son, David.  The age difference is a difficult enough obstacle to have to overcome, but Rafi is also not of Jewish faith, which in Lisaís family, they take very seriously.   Lisa continues to treat Rafi, resolved to the fact that such a relationship is only short-term, but despite their differences, Rafi and Dave seem to be hitting it off quite well.
Although billed as a romantic comedy, Prime plays much more like a seriocomic drama, taking its characters and situations with more seriousness than typical rom-coms generally allow.  Not that thatís bad, itís just that there will be viewers out there disappointed that the film isnít as funny or lively as they would be led to believe from the advertisements or posters.  There are some comic moments thrown in, mostly coming into play in Lisaís office, where she learns things about her sonís sexual techniques and prowess that sheíd rather not know.  Streep does manage to deliver a nice, vulnerable performance in a role that isnít exactly suited to her dramatic strengths.
Despite the quality of some of the character touches, there are many ways that Prime could have been delivered in a better fashion.  While the leads are attractive enough to buy as to their physical interest in each other, there is little actual on-screen chemistry between the two to convincingly carry the heartfelt moments that develop from time to time.  It doesnít help that the characters arenít really shown to interact with each other with any sense of depth during the courting phase, as they enjoy each other sexually, as well as for companionship, but we never get the sense that they really belong together other than for the occasional fling.  In other words, we feel the lust they share, but not much of the love.  Perhaps with no-name actors in an independent film, such an intimate study of a difficult romance might fare better, but with the star power and credentials of the cast and crew involved, itís hard not to think that something more substantive should have emerged.
Even with the inherent weaknesses, Prime will still manage to hold the attention of most viewers interested in the material, and Younger does keep the intelligence and energy running at a consistent level, with a few poignant moments thrown in.  Refreshingly, the ending is particularly resonant, staying true to the characters and their status in life, as Prime says more in its quiet wordless final scene than at any point during the rest of this dialogue-driven movie.

Qwipster's rating:

©2006 Vince Leo