Movie Review: Prime (2005)


Prime is a romantic comedy in which a 37 year old woman Rafi, played by Uma Thurman, just coming out of a divorce meets a 23 year old painter named Dave, played by Bryan Greenberg.  By mere coincidence her therapist, played by Meryl Streep, turns out to be Dave’s mother, and the majority of the otherwise classic love story is devoted to Meryl Streep trying to keep a lid on what she knows.

The movie deals with the question of whether love can overcome practical obstacles like age differences. The problem, as it often does, comes down to definitions. Love seems to be defined by great sex, humorous jibes, and the thrill of the forbidden. This unfortunate paradigm is tragically common in romantic relationships today. Even though Rafi is in therapy, presumably to understand how she ended up in a marriage which failed miserably, there is never any indication that she has made any mistakes and no one in the film dares criticize her. In my opinion society simply doesn’t allow women to be criticized for failed relationships. A movie which suggested that the female main character shouldn’t be getting involved in a new relationship until she fixed the root of what had caused her marriage to fail and why she married her ex in the first place, would not be produced as a critically acclaimed movie like Prime. Quite the opposite occurs here: Meryl Streep’s character instead tells her patient to go have fun — “You deserve [to be dating someone who’s 27]. Hell, I deserve it.”

Right away the therapist is shown to have very little credibility, who is more of a cheerleader while Rafi gets back on her feet. Anyone who thinks this is representative of the psychoanalyst profession as a whole has never been involved with a rigorous, engaging therapist who truly supports the growth of her patients.  When Meryl Streep’s character catches on to the truth behind her patient and her son’s involvement, a part of her knows she should stop treating her patient. Instead she continues treatment with the hope that their involvement will just turn out to be a fling. After weeks of dating when their relationship becomes very serious and Dave moves in with Rafi, Meryl Streep’s character finally decides to come clean. Rafi is angry with the mother but when she visits her as an in-law she acts as if it’s all just water under the bridge. Again, we have the theme of women not being allowed to criticize other women. They hug and make up and everything is supposed to be wonderful. Unfortunately, that’s not how anger works in reality. When someone betrays your trust to that degree you don’t just give it a bit of time until your feelings blow over. Even if that person is your mother-in-law. Dave appears apathetic about the entire situation and, although he yells at his mom over the phone, he eventually caves because he has been trained to pacify women.

Rafi, during the scene in which she is invited to meet Dave’s family, says to Meryl Streep’s character, “Somehow I’ll always think of you as my therapist.” This is subtle but it reinforces one of the fundamental facts about relationships – the fact that relationships don’t change. Individuals, when struck by an inner fire for improvement can absolutely change, however I believe that your relationship with another person is something that will remain fixed in its essence. By that I mean the rules for your relationship, the respect you show each other, the values you find in the other person won’t suddenly become the exact opposite of what they were. These aspects remain the same no matter how desperately we want it to be otherwise.

So let’s get to the juicy stuff – the sex. There are some rather racy scenes in the movie, and both main characters are gorgeous specimens of lust. Prime reminds us what sex is really for, which is primarily to produce babies, secondarily to provide resources for those babies, and tertiarily to rock your socks off. As usual, these priorities have been reversed. Personally, I disagree with the claim that a man and woman 14 years apart could not become great parents, provided they demonstrated the kind of love for each other based on virtue. Unfortunately the epitome of virtue in this film seems to be “he’s cute and funny and he’s got a great penis.” (The awkward part where Rafi reveals to her therapist how beautiful Dave’s penis is I think meant to be comedic.) In the penultimate scene, Dave is determined to give Rafi what he knows she wants – a baby. Rafi refuses, saying that it wouldn’t be fair to him. No mention is given to what would be fair to the unborn child. Well, I’m going to say it here, loud and clear: You should not bring a child in to the world unless you can meet the following basic conditions.

  1. You have the minimum financial capability. This doesn’t have to be any unwieldy number but enough to feed and clothe the baby.
  2. You have addressed your own psychological traumas and conflicts through self-examination, journaling, and therapy.
  3. You have used your self-knowledge to expel unhealthy people in your life and build a strong foundation with your partner based on honest communication, emotional connection, and unwavering appreciation.
  4. Both you and your partner are willing to put the child first and sacrifice some, though hopefully not all, of your other life goals in order to spend the necessary time raising a child in a loving, empathetic, assertive environment.

I don’t recommend watching Prime unless you want a stomach-turning reminder of what passes for comedy these days, and even worse what passes for romance. Maybe I don’t understand romcoms because I’m not a female. To me, if I wanted to learn about physical attraction I’d watch either a biology documentary or pornography. Films like these, however, I think simply fall into the category of love propaganda.

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