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The First One is Always the Hardest
by Anhoni Patel on Oct 28, 2005
Everyone has that one great love. The one that shapes you and colors all following relationships. This love is quite influential and leaves a lasting impression. Written and directed by Ben Younger (Boiler Room), Prime is essentially about this kind of love, with the (unnecessary) additions of comedic histrionics and overbearing mothers.
Rafi (Uma Thurman) is a successful photography producer who's recently divorced. She's also 37. A mere week after she signs the papers, she happens to meet a hunky guy with whom she has an instant spark, David Bloomberg (Bryan Greenberg). On their first date, you find out that he's only 23. Cue collective gasp here.
Instead of leaving it at that and exploring an already complicated relationship, Younger decides to "spice" things up. Every week Rafi sees Lisa Metzger (Meryl Streep looking dowdy and old), a psychoanalyst/ego-booster with an interesting set of ethics. She's quite encouraging when it comes to the exploits of her patient, and when Rafi tells her about this significantly younger man, she tells her to "go for it and have fun."
She doesn't hold the same advice, however, for her son who she pressures to date only girls who are Jewish. Her son has other ideas. For example, his new girlfriend is not Jewish, and she's 14 years his senior. He, of course, is David, Rafi's new lover.
Who thinks up these things? It's so absurd, it's not even funny. While there are some laughs between Thurman and Streep courtesy of this awkward situation (Lisa figures out Rafi's seeing her son a lot sooner than Rafi does) -- particularly one scene in which Rafi extols the beauty of David's…er, member; "This penis is so beautiful, I want to knit it a hat!" she exclaims while Lisa looks nauseous and gulps down a gallon of water -- you can't shake off the hokey sitcom feeling this scenario infuses into the rest of the film. You half expect there to be a laugh track after every punch line.
Indeed the only genuinely funny (or even just genuine) moments come from Greenberg, who delivers his lines with perfect comedic timing tinged with just the right amount of sarcasm, and his misogynist schlep of a friend Morris (Jon Abrahams in a scene-stealing performance). The flashback scenes David recounts about his grandmother whom he refers to as "Bubbi" -- introducing her to his black girlfriend, her hitting herself in the head with a frying pan every time his conscious says "oy vey!" -- are hilarious. But these scenes have a completely different feel than the rest of Prime. The have a dreamlike visual style even though they are essentially more personal and real and than the rest of the film.
Prime would have been much better off if Younger hadn't added in the "twist". The storyline about Rafi and David's relationship unfolds gradually, and those scenes in which they are experiencing difficulties and doubts are the movie's most powerful. Perhaps because they remind you of that painful first love. But when you factor in all the other issues, it cheapens everything else.
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
by Anhoni Patel on Oct 28, 2005
Bryan Greenberg and Uma Thurman, image courtesy of Universal Pictures
Bryan Greenberg and Meryl Streep, image courtesy of Universal Pictures
Meryl Streep, Uma Thurman and Bryan Greenberg, image courtesy of Universal Pictures