In a day and age when May-December relationships are as common as CSI spinoffs or Donald Trump PR ops, Prime couldn't settle for a mere age difference in its lead lovers. Nope, not only is there an age difference—Rafi (Uma Thurman) is 37, David (Bryan Greenberg) is 23—there's also a religious difference, a rebound (she signs divorce papers a week before they meet), a socio-economic gap, baby-lust issues, and, uh, and that little matter of his mom being her therapist (oh, don't act surprised, you've seen it in all the previews). In other words, this relationship is anything but "prime."

Bryan Greenberg plays a young artist who falls for a (much) older chick, played by Uma Thurman

Bryan Greenberg plays a young artist who falls for a (much) older chick, played by Uma Thurman

But that doesn't stop Rafi and David from falling for each other. After they meet through mutual friends at an art-house theater—where he's on a date, by the way—he finds her number in the phone book (Hello? Has he never heard of Google?) and calls her up. They go out and start the whole movie dance of boy-meets-girl, boy-loses-girl, yada, yada, yada.

In the early days, their relationship falls prey to one of my Hollywood romance pet peeves—not showing us why they like each other. All we see of the budding romance is him chatting cute about carp on their first date and gazing longingly at her golden locks. Then he sneaks her into a secret garden nestled in New York City, where they prattle awkwardly about beer and kiss for the first of many times. Considering all the hurdles they have to jump to get to each other, I needed more.

Meryl Streep as Dr. Lisa Metzger, a therapist who advises Rafi on all things love

Meryl Streep as Dr. Lisa Metzger, a therapist who advises Rafi on all things love

Of their laundry list of differences, the age issue bothers them most, and they each seek counsel: Rafi from her therapist, Dr. Lisa Metzger (Meryl Streep), and David from his best friend, Morris. These are classic quirky supporting characters; David's friend wears ladylike glasses and throws pies in the faces of women who won't grant him a second date. (By the way, he gets these pies from real-life Magnolia Bakery in NYC. And having sampled their delicious offerings myself, I think his quirk should actually be criminal.) And Dr. Lisa doesn't so much wear her big, clunky necklaces as they wear her. As well as her fussy little mop of a hairdo.

Once Lisa figures out that the rebound boy in Rafi's life is actually her son, she practically pulls out every hair of that fussy 'do—not so much because she's heard all about his sexual skills and body parts, but because Rafi isn't Jewish. This sparks a major family rift and an interesting mother-son confrontation in which she tells him she thinks religion is paramount in a person's life—and dating outside of your faith will only make a huge mess.

Lisa and her son David discuss the perils of dating outside the faith

Lisa and her son David discuss the perils of dating outside the faith

If Lisa wears her faith like a legalistic badge, David wears his like an albatross. He often pictures his dearly departed grandma banging a huge frying pan against her head at some of his life choices. This is quite humorous—and yet sad. The people of faith in this flick seem bound instead of freed by their beliefs. They're desperately in need of some grace.

And if David seems conflicted in their relationship, Rafi just seems selfish. She raves about how eager David is to please her, gushes about how happy he makes her, comments that living together would just help her see even sooner if he can give her what she wants, and at one of their partings (oh come on, you saw it coming) claims, "You're in no place to give me what I need."

Uma Thurman is altogether convincing—and gorgeous—as an oversexed divorcee trying to find her way in a new romance while trying to swat away her baby longings like annoying flies. It's nice to see her softer side after so many kick-butt films of late. And Bryan Greenberg is adorable as her pool-boy-like paramour. We feel his anguish when he tries to muster the guts to call Rafi the first time, and can't help but laugh along to his boyish glee when he plays along with Morris's antics. And thank goodness Meryl Streep and the scriptwriters save her character from falling for every bad stereotype about Jewish mothers and New York therapists.

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David and Rafi enjoy their time together, but will this romance last?

David and Rafi enjoy their time together, but will this romance last?

But with all the complications the star-crossed lovers face, I wish they would have spent less time showing them in the bedroom (and kitchen, and hallway, and … ) and more time showing us what such a sophisticated woman sees in this playful boy-man—and delving into the realities of being only one week out of a nine-year marriage, dating across faith lines, and yes, being a tragically hip May-December romance. This would have been screen time better spent.

So while the movie isn't prime, it's a small cut above your average Hollywood romance. Throwing realistic, thought-provoking obstacles at our lovers and showing growth in their character over the course of the relationship gives it a tad more depth than the typical chick-flick fluff. But ironically, this therapeutic romantic comedy ultimately suffers from too many unexplored issues.

Talk About It

Discussion starters
  1. Do you think relationships with this big an age gap can really survive? Do you think someone who's one week past signing divorce papers is ready to find love?

  2. Dr. Lisa tells Rafi to just get messy with life, "because at least you know you're living." What do you think of this advice? Are there any ways your life is too "neat" or safe?

  3. Contrast the advice Lisa gives to Rafi as a client versus David as her son. Why do you think there's a difference? Do you think this is fair?

  4. What do you think about interfaith dating, or a person of faith dating someone who has no faith? Does the Bible give us any guidance on this issue? What does it say?

  5. What changes do you see in Rafi and David over the course of their relationship? What lessons do they each learn about love and about themselves?

  6. Lisa tells David "Love isn't always enough when it comes to marriage and kids and all that comes with that." Do you agree or disagree? If you agree, what else is needed to be "enough"?

The Family Corner

For parents to consider

Prime is rated PG-13 for sexual content including dialogue, and for language. Though there's no nudity, they push the PG-13 envelope a bit. There's lots of premarital sex and conversations about sexual practices and body parts. And a bit of bad language. Prime is better suited for adults and perhaps for older, mature teens. The plot line about dating outside your faith is a great topic for conversation.

What Other Critics Are Saying

After her comical turn in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, Meryl Streep is winning laughs again for a comedic turn in director Ben Younger's comedy Prime. Streep plays a middle-aged therapist who is dismayed to learn that one of her patients (Uma Thurman) is dating her son.

But a talented cast does not a great movie make, as reviews from Christian critics demonstrate.

Harry Forbes (Catholic News Service) calls it "a generally amusing, if at times morally problematic Manhattan-based story." He's bothered by "everyone's casualness about the affair." But he's pleased that "the affair at least very quickly morphs into one with real love and affection … and the bittersweet ending is admirably realistic, with Rafi ultimately doing 'the right thing.'"

Marcus Yoars (Plugged In) calls it a "sexually permissive story full of bed-hopping and noncommitment. In some regards, there is a sweetness to Dave and Rafi. In an incidental way, both want to help each other along at their stage of life. Both are somewhat willing to overlook differences for the sake of love … [But] for both Rafi and Dave, love is about taking, not giving. It's about what you can do for me."

Meanwhile, mainstream reviews are a mixed bag.

Prime
Our Rating
2½ Stars - Fair
Average Rating
 
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Mpaa Rating
PG-13 (for sexual content including dialogue, and for language)
Directed By
Ben Younger
Run Time
1 hour 45 minutes
Cast
Uma Thurman, Meryl Streep, Bryan Greenberg
Theatre Release
October 28, 2005 by Universal Pictures
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