Wednesday, February 22, 2006

PRIME: Duet with Streep & Thurman

(romantic comedy)
Time: 100 mins
Rating: * * *
Meryl Streep & Uma Thurman in PRIME
FOR most moviegoers, the primary attraction of this romantic comedy must be the Oscar-winning virtuoso Meryl Streep. With Streep and the delectable Uma Thurman in the cast, what can go wrong?

To be sure, nothing much except the Malaysian censorship cuts which leaves many gaps in the narrative. Streep plays Lisa Metzger, a psychiatrist and friend to 37-year-old Rafi Gardet (Thurman) who has problems adjusting to life after a bitter divorce.Lisa encourages Rafi to go out and get intimately involved again. Rafi does just that — with Dave Bloomberg (Bryan Greenberg), a 23-year-old Jewish painter who is still living with his grandparents.

The age-gap is a matter of concern to Rafi but when she confides this to Lisa, the therapist brushes it aside, saying that age doesn’t matter if she really cared for him. Lisa says the same for Rafi’s concern that Dave is Jewish and she is not. With her hang-ups thus allayed, Rafi goes full steam into her relationship with Dave and even invites him to share her apartment.

Then comes the zinger: Lisa discovers that the guy in Rafi’s life is her son -- and this throws a spanner into the whole works. As a therapist, she may encourage the relationship, but as a mother, it is another story. This turn of events is so disturbing to Lisa that she has to consult her own therapist (Madhur Jaffrey as Rita).

Should she come clean with Rafi and declare conflict of interest? Or carry on and try to talk her out of the relationship? Never mind the outcome. The fun is in watching how Lisa reacts to Rafi’s descriptions of their love-making, relating Dave’s opinion of his mother and even describing his private part in the most endearing terms imaginable.

Writer-director Ben Younger (who did the 2000 youth comedy Boiler Room) extracts as much mileage as he can from the ‘comedy of errors’ subplot before moving on to present its ‘logical’ conclusion. Well, when you have someone like Streep in the cast, it is reasonable to draw as much of her talent — and her fantastic range of facial expressions — as possible. Thurman contributes a bit too, including a touch of sexual energy and glamour to the comedy. She seems perfect for the role and no one would question why a younger man would fall for her. Greenberg supports well enough but he is definitely eclipsed by the two big stars.

Jon Abrahams is featured in a subplot as Morris, Dave’s buddy who likes to throw cream pies in the faces of the women he has dated, while Jerry Adler and Doris Belack play Dave’s bickering grandparents. We are not sure what the title refers to, but Prime is an intelligent and sophisticated comedy that should please most discerning viewers. Why, it even has an ‘epilogue’, instead of the usual romantic endings.


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