Film Review: Prime

This review contains spoilers.

Partway through the 2005 American romcom Prime, Jewish therapist Lisa (played by Meryl Streep) discovers that the 23-year-old man her 37-year-old non-Jewish client Rafi (Uma Thurman) has been dating for several weeks is her son.

This would, I’m sure, come as something as a shock to many parents, and Lisa deals with it sensibly enough by consulting with her own therapist. Who advises her that, conveniently for the plot, the situation only represents a conflict of interest if the relationship goes beyond a brief fling.

To which the only possible response is: ????

This, coincidentally, is also the response I had to most of the rest of the film, which follows Rafi and 23-year-old David through a turbulent and overwrought relationship whose sole foundation would appear to be sex that neither party much enjoys. The script relies entirely on stereotypes to do its characterisation work for it: Rafi is the high-powered career woman with the nice apartment, David is the feckless unemployed artist who lies around playing video games all day. Also we can tell that David’s family is Jewish because they have large animated family dinners on a Friday night. Also the only non-white characters in this film who are not also Jewish are 1) Lisa’s therapist, a wise Magical Negro type played by Indian-American actor Madhur Jaffrey, and 2) the Black doorman at Rafi’s apartment building whose entire thing is that he never smiles or breaks his professional facade. (Unless it is, in another ???? moment, to let David into the building against Rafi’s will, because he is secretly shipping them!)

I have a lot of feelings about this film.

Anyway, one of the chief effects of this reliance on stereotype is that the script never once makes the case for why David and Rafi are together. Like what is all this “is she too old for me/is he too young for me/can we overcome our cultural-religious differences” angst FOR? when these characters spend the entirety of their romantic lives arguing and/or Having Second Thoughts about each other?

I mean, I actually know the answer to this, and the answer is “default heteronormativity”. There is a hot woman and a hot man, of course they will fall in luurve and want to be together, HAVE YOU NO ROMANCE IN YOUR SOUL??? But most romcoms at least make an effort to show their romantic leads, like, enjoying each other’s company.

Which is handy, because “most romcoms” is what you should watch instead of Prime. Unless your goal is to bond/have a good time with your future parents-in-law by making jokes at the film’s expense (which, actually, this turns out to be surprisingly good for!), pick, I’d say, almost anything else.

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