Featuring an excellent trio of leads, and an interesting concept as far as it goes, Prime should have been an amusing diversion, but due to the tactlessness of the marketing ‘gurus’ it is stripped of its only really unique feature and becomes a fairly bland affair.

Much like Mr. and Mrs. Smith and The Island before it, this one-trick pony is hobbled by the ‘genius’ marketers who decided to throw away the twist in the trailer. Having seen that preview, I was intrigued as to whether Prime would have anything more to offer, and watched the first sequences carefully.Prime Writer/Director Ben Younger (previously writer/director for 2000’s Boiler Room) carefully builds the relationships between the three cast, clearly preparing for the mid-story twist that will turn their lives upside down. This seems pointless in view of the hatchet job performed on his chance of surprising the audience by those responsible for the trailer.

Disappointingly, without the foreknowledge of the twist, Prime may have passed for entertainment. Meryl Streep and Uma Thurman are both excellent actors, and their time together is a joy to watch. Thurman, in particular, seems to be having a ball, clearly revelling in her analyst couch discussion of her sex life with the younger man, pun intended. Streep, who has performed many accents in a long career – including the much-reviled ‘Australian’ accent of Evil Angels (A Cry in the Dark) – seems to have tried to adopt a ‘New York Jew’ vocal pattern, which occasionally wavers to straight Streep. Aside from her linguistic variability, she is excellent as the tortured therapist. Bryan Greenberg evidently favours ‘smouldering’ over ‘animated’, and having spent a lot of time on tv’s “One Tree Hill’ in the company of Chad Michael Murray, one can understand his influences. He and Thurman do play well together though, but he does tend to get dwarfed when in the presence of Streep.

The problems in Prime lie mainly in the pedestrian plotting that fails to fully take advantage of its players. The time leading up to ‘the twist’ is appealing (although, had it not thrown away any advantage it had in its trailer, it could have been very entertaining indeed), but the remainder seems to struggle along to an eventual conclusion that is not surprising or illuminating. The film seems to lack direction, as if coming up with one good idea was enough – how best to take advantage of the moments of conflict seems not to have been fully considered, and the subsequent meandering through to the conclusion is a disappointing failure.

Prime is entertaining in parts, but never capitalises on a reasonable premise and an excellent cast. Wayward and directionless for its second half, it has limited appeal.

Rating: 2.0 stars
Review by Mark Lavercombe, 21st November 2005
Hoopla Factor: 2.0 stars


I agree with Mark on every point but one: the Hoopla Factor. I loved this film.

The direction certainly was lacklustre. I got impression that Ben Younger had a very standoffish approach to directing. Too often it felt like the leads were unsure how to approach a scene, even though we were treated to a trio of such talented performers. Prime At first I found Greenberg (The Perfect Score) a little dull, but I slowly warmed to him. He certainly filled the role of the much younger guy perfectly, though it sometimes seemed like he was playing an 18 rather than 23 year old. Meryl Streep (The Manchurian Candidate) is always a safe bet. (I recently re-watched her brilliant performance in the underrated The River Wild – she made that decent thriller fantastic.) In Prime the contrast between her role as mother and as therapist was a joy to watch. Uma Thurman (Paycheck), however, was the real highlight. I’m not usually so taken by her (one of the major flaws in The Truth About Cats and Dogs was that the ‘ugly duckling’ of the piece, Janeane Garofolo, was more appealing than Thurman) but for some reason she really shone in this film. She seemed to throw herself completely into the role, delivering a faultless performance. Greenberg certainly seemed to fare better in the scenes he shared with her.

The pacing of Prime seemed slightly off, and some scenes felt as if they’ve been reordered. The narrative was quite reserved, and as Mark said, there were many more places the filmmakers could have gone. But when it really counted, Prime was fairly sensible and realistic, a rarity in romcoms.

The film didn’t come close to being well rounded, but was enjoyable nonetheless.

Rating: 2.5 stars
Review by Stuart Wilson, 28th November 2005
Hoopla Factor: 4.0 stars

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