Wed October 26, 2005
Invigorating a genre
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
Prime is a prime example this year of how Hollywood can take an old genre, the romantic comedy, and update and invigorate it. Recently Shopgirl explored the ramifications of older man/ younger woman romance; Prime deals directly with younger man/older woman romance. Although Shopgirl has a Truman Capote lyricism about it, Prime rarely ignores the chance to show both sides of the eternal debate about love, "in love," and the politics of engaging either.
Director/writer Younger has the advantage of two attractive leads, who are capable of being loved at any time in their day by all kinds of suitors. So that aspect is Hollywood unreal; yet it's Younger's honesty about the effects of outr? romance that keeps the film out of the clich?d romantic graveyard and in the Platonic arena of discourse about a happy life.
Adding to the interest of Prime is the ongoing discussion about marrying outside of your religion. As this is New York and every family member jumps into the opinion pit, you can guess Bryan Greenberg's David Bloomberg is Jewish and his family not happy about his romancing shiksas Rafi Gardet (Uma Thurman), much less a 37 year-old divorcee. It's Woody Allen territory and every bit as interesting.
In addition to facing the emotional and experiential gaps in the lover's background, Younger deals with the theme of professional ethics, namely the fact that Rafi's therapist, Lisa Metzger (Meryl Streep) turns out to be also David's mother. She stays with Rafi, not revealing her secret, for Rafi's mental health, but it is not a comfortable situation. Streep's performance is one of the best of the year, funny and poignant as we watch her when Rafi reveals the most intimate parts of her relationship with Lisa's son. When Rafi finds out her lover lives with his grandparents, the slapstick Thurman does is perfect for tone and meaning. Because Bryan Greenberg's David, albeit John F. Kennedy, Jr., good looking, is not strong by contrast to the stellar Streep's Lisa or the seasoned Thurman's Rafi, the film is not as strong as it could have been.
Earlier this year, In Her Shoes dealt about family relationships and Must Love Dogs about internet dating as well as age differences; Prime, along with Shopgirl, is as delicate and thoughtful a discussion about modern romance, with all the "diversity" issues, as could be hoped for.
It's been a good year for this genre.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time," which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org Fridays at 3:01 pm and 8:01 pm. Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com