Prime

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Placed in New York, which is represented with all the urban delight appropriate to a romantic comedy, writer/director Ben Younger’s Prime is the kind of movie thatbrings a smile to the face and keeps it pleasantly plastered there.

Rafi (Uma Thurman) is 37 and coming out of a nine-year failed marriage. She’s processing the change with her therapist, Lisa Metzger (Meryl Streep) who encourages her saying, "Get messy in life. At least you know you’re living." But Streep’s professional advice apparently stops at her office door. When it comes to her own son, David (Bryan Greenberg), she actively discourages him from his desired career as a painter and she presses him to find a Jewish girl to marry.

As fate would have it, and unbeknownst to Lisa, Rafi and David meet up and, despite a fourteen year difference in age and different religions, they fall for each other, only then beginning to contend with the problems that their differences present. That’s the premise, with the humor largely derived from Lisa’s conflicted role as mother to David and shrink to Rafi. Throw in some satirical jabs at the traditional New York Jewish subculture, David’s buddy Morris (Jon Abrahams) who seems never to get past a first date, and there’s sufficient material for frothy comedy, well anchored in three solid characterizations.

Streep (The Manchurian Candidate, Angels in America) is at her comic best here, in some scenes using body language that expresses Lisa’s discomfort with more humor and spot-on emotional accuracy than words ever could. Thurman (Kill Bill I, Paycheck) is equally comfortable in this lighter, romantic vein as she has been in recent, heavier roles and young Greenberg is a natural, thoroughly engaging at the cusp of ingenuous youth and masculine adulthood. It’s nice, for a change, to have a comedy in which the three main characters are all likable people; one laughs with them, not at them.

Younger sustains a pleasing balance between romantic moments (trespassing in Gramercy Park, a surprise candlelit dinner) and humor-focused scenes that feel fresh, even if often treading on familiar territory. And he has the good sense to keep the film to a length that fits its content, refraining from the common affliction among today’s directors who all too often seem unable to leave a single frame on the cutting room floor.

Arthur Lazere

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San Francisco, CA
Mr. Lazere founded culturevulture.net in 1998 and worked tirelessly to promote its potential as a means for communicating a distinctly personal yet wide-ranging selection of arts reviews. Under his leadership, the site grew in esteem as well as in “circulation", and is well-regarded nationally and internationally as a source for up-to-date, well-written criticism. Arthur passed away on September 30, 2006.