The old familiar and well worn cogs that power Hollywood's cycle of romantic comedies turn their weary way once more with the DVD release of Ben Younger's rom-com Prime. Alas, someone really should have told Younger some of the basic notions of the field in which his film resides, as this end result is the proverbial flat pancake, a monotonous take on the genre picture which for the most part is neither romantic nor comedic. Rafi Gardet (Uma Thurman) is a 37 year old professional from Manhattan who has just entered singlehood after finally signing divorce papers with her estranged spouse. The ink is barely dry on the contract when she finds herself charmed by David Bloomberg (Bryan Greenberg), an aspiring painter from Brooklyn who, at a mere 23, is 14 years her junior. Their unlikely romance blossoms despite the age gap, until a twist of fate which links the couple puts their relationship under strain and scrutiny. It transpires Rafi's psychoanalyst Lisa Metzger (Meryl Streep) is also the protective mother of her new lover. Lisa struggles to reconcile her personal and professional obligations, and it becomes clear to Rafi and David that she won't accept their relationship without a fight... Ever the optimist, I'll start if I may with the film's good points. Or should that be good point. Meryl Streep is fantastic here, as she very nearly always is, and single-handed fights against the waves of mediocrity and apathy that otherwise adorn this bore-fest. Her role as the resolutely religious disapproving mother and compromised psychoanalyst is neither an original nor particularly well explored one, but Streep to her credit wrings every last ounce from the lacking material. Old Meryl it seems, may certainly no longer know how to pick 'em, but there's no questioning her gusto and enthusiasm on display here. In many respects, it's a crying shame that the movie couldn't focus more on her character instead of the interminably dull Thurman and Greenberg, and her entertaining involvement is kept operating on the margins of the picture. Alas even a Meryl Streep army of biblical proportions couldn't manage to gloss over this movie's failings, of which there are many. The main problem which is abundantly apparent here is that this is a movie of which I honestly can't fathom who its intended audience is. Younger writes and directs, so we can presume he is perhaps pursuing some kind of artistic vision here, but seemingly at the expense of any kind of true appreciation of where he wants to head with the film. The end result is a disappointing and unsatisfying concoction of disparate styles and values. At points, the director shoots for some intellectual kudos with a bohemian soundtrack, a less than typical romance plot arc, and an unconventional denouement. Yet with the other hand he provides some stereotypical and underdeveloped side characters, some truly uninspired set pieces straight from the idiots guide to rom-coms, and a host of oversimplified detours away from potentially interesting material. It's as if Younger has stumbled across the nucleus of a pretty interesting concept, and has systematically failed to realise the potential of his subject (keen viewers may remember he did a similar trick with his earlier feature Boiler Room). Interesting ideas are left by the wayside or underdeveloped, and the whole movie tootles along, stumbling into the next scene more by luck than design. So if we aren't getting any meaningful development outside of the origins of the concept itself, then at least we can settle back for a few undemanding easy laughs then? Well unfortunately not. As accompanying Younger's strive for auteurist fulfilment, Prime is somewhat of a sourpuss in the comedy stakes. It takes itself too seriously in exploring the nature of unusual romance to actually bother with the comedy element of its mandate. Despite the blurb on the artwork proclaiming something different, I can assure you that there is absolutely nothing 'hilarious' about this film. Thurman is once again her overrated and uninspired self, Greenberg's comedic chops will have you reaching for the Prozac, and his 'comedy sidekick' Jon Abrahams can comfortably be filed under A for Annoying in Dennis Norden's laughter file. Only Streep passes muster, and this is more down to the way she plays her character than any quality writing. There is one wonderful scene involving Thurman and Streep which is highly entertaining, but one high point in a generous 106min runtime is hardly a gold star average. The romance factor too fails to ring true. Younger has a great idea to play with here, of the immaturity of youth contrasted with the insecurity of experience, but he fails to hit the right spot. There are scenes which should work well in the context of the movie, such as the disparity between David's actions when with his friends and his behaviour around Rafi, or her coming to terms with the fact that perhaps he can't offer her what she needs. Unfortunately, the staleness of the chemistry and direction ensure that we never connect with the notion of Thurman and Greenberg as a couple, and the development of their relationship never really delves any deeper than some sporadic bursts of passion. This might help explain the tail off of the affair in the latter part of the film, but does noting to create a realistic ambiance of love against all odds that is required for earlier identification with these characters. The whole depressing affair is certainly not helped by the pacing of the movie, which is some of the worst I have seen in a long time. The first half ticks by fine, and then after that everything goes south at pace. Whether this is down to sloppy editing, poor script work, or a failure to deal with source material is open to debate, but the end result is less than encouraging. Despite being nearly two hours in length, the film seems incredibly constricted and uneven. Plot twists and turns get thrown in like confetti, and next to nothing is given the time to breathe and develop. Simultaneously though, the film feels flabby and overlong, it's funeral pace and one-note delivery dragging once the first hour goes by. A far better film could surely have been made by dropping half the superfluous material and concentrating on delivering a simpler and more focused tale than this, which meanders in all directions and comes back on itself at least once. It's difficult to see where a confused little film like this hopes to find a fanbase. Too dour and laboured for the romantic comedy crowd, and too tired and underdeveloped to find favour with a more astute audience, Prime falls between two stools and appears destined for obscurity. Which is probably not a stone's throw from where it belongs.
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