Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Now Playing: Prime

I’ve never been a fan of Uma Thurman and it’s not like I never gave her a chance.

I saw her in her debut film Dangerous Liasons and thought she was odd looking and an uninspired performer. That train of thought never changed until I saw someone actually use her to her full potential in Kill Bill Vol. 1 and yes, that includes her appearance in Pulp Fiction. Quentin Tarantino obviously saw more than I with his 1994 film but it wasn’t until he put her front and center that the light clicked on. She was ferocious in the Kill Bill films but it was the second one where she displayed a gift for spinning Tarantino’s unique dialogue on her tongue.

Then Ben Younger cast her in Prime and I realized how luminous she could also be.

It’s amazing how someone can be a performer for any number of years but until the right person comes along who understands how to get the best out of that performer, they may as well be little more than window dressing. Younger knows exactly how to shoot and light Thurman to give her a radiance I’ve never seen on her before. She plays Rafi, a recently divorced thirty-something who confesses every week to her shrink, played by Meryl Streep in full Jewish Mom Mode™. Rafi complains about men, works to get the kinks out of her life, all while Streep looks on and offers suggestions.

Those suggestions wind up inadvertently leading Rafi into the arms of a younger man (by north of 10 years) who turns out to be Streep’s son which, of course, leads to far more awkward conversations. Cliché? Absolutely. But this is a film where the performances are the key and the main ones work wonders.

Streep is hilarious as the imperious mother whose suggestions on healing probably came from her mother instead of from Freud. She and Thurman have a wonderful dynamic and watching how awkward Streep gets when she realizes Rafi is talking about her son’s privates is a case study in comic acting. The lead actor does what he was paid for but this is far more Thurman and Streep’s show than his, and both women are stellar.

The ending attempts to be a natural one instead of the feel-good ending it would have had were it produced in Hollywood, but I think the good ending would have felt more earned. Both Rafi and the lead actor go through a number of life altering changes through the film and it builds to an ending that never materializes which is a shame. Other than that, I’d recommend Prime as a pretty good romantic comedy that could have been better had it stuck the landing.


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