`Prime' is good therapy if you need a laugh

Review B

October 28, 2005|By CHRIS KALTENBACH | CHRIS KALTENBACH,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

Therapists may take a dim view of Prime, a romantic comedy with Uma Thurman falling for a guy 15 years her junior that features some of the worst therapeutic advice ever to appear onscreen. Just about everyone else will be too busy chuckling to care.

Thurman, luminous as ever, is Rafi Gardet, recently divorced and vulnerable; like every other beautiful, together woman in Hollywood, she has despaired of ever finding the right man, and figures it must be her fault.

Then, against her better judgment, she starts falling for David Bloomberg (Bryan Greenberg), who himself is a bit vulnerable and confused, not to mention shy around women. But David has a good reason to feel so insecure; he's only 23, he doesn't have a job (he's an artist without enough confidence in his work to display it), his best friend is a guy whose hobby is assaulting exes with custard pies and his mother keeps pressuring him to find a nice Jewish girl and settle down.

You'd think these two would be made for each other. David has the sort of energy and adventurousness Rafi could use in her life, while few things are gonna bolster a guy's self-confidence faster than having Uma Thurman for a girlfriend. Still, there's the age difference. And Rafi's reluctance to believe she even deserves to be happy. And she's not Jewish -- David's mom is sure to lay on the guilt so thick, these star-crossed lovers don't stand a chance.

Thank goodness for Rafi's therapist, Lisa Metzger (Meryl Streep), who urges her patient to seize the moment. Less sanguine is David's mom, who sees her world collapsing in on itself. She's so much older than you, she tells her son. And the whole religion thing guarantees this relationship is doomed.

Maybe this is a good time to point out David's mom and Rafi's therapist are the same person.

Prime serves as yet another showcase for Streep; to prove how expertly she plays a Jewish mother with a Ph.D. in psychology, just imagine Barbra Streisand in the role -- you'd have a farce only a step above slapstick. With Streep, you get a smartly observant comedy that never overplays its hand.

Prime is at its lamest when writer/director Ben Younger succumbs to formula. Jon Abrahams as the pie-thrower is a character who exists only to 1) show how adult David is by comparison, and 2) dispense with some sage advice at the last possible minute. And the big romantic crisis, meant to come across as a moment of incredible betrayal, seems at worst an overblown misunderstanding.

Perhaps harder to overlook is the therapy that borders on malpractice -- not only by Streep's character, who keeps Rafi in the dark about her status as David's mom, but by Streep's character's therapist, who sees no problem in keeping the relationship secret.

Good thing Prime is a comedy, not a probe into medical ethics.

chris.kaltenbach@baltsun.com

Prime

(Universal Pictures)

Starring Uma Thurman, Meryl Streep, Bryan Greenberg.

Directed by Ben Younger.

Rated PG-13.

Time 105 minutes.

Review B

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