The romantic comedy genre is well worn. In fact, finding fertile
ground in which to grow a new film seems very hard indeed. So, when you
watch any new "romcom" (as industry speak calls them) you have to sort
of forget you’ve ever seen the format before otherwise you’ll be
constantly disappointed. Unfortunately you can’t be expected to forget
every movie you’ve ever seen.
Writer/director Ben Younger has directed before (2000’s Boiler Room) but that experience wasn’t freeing enough to allow him to use every hack directorial choice imaginable in his latest feature, Prime. Handheld camera that shakes like an epileptic throughout the entire film? Check. Musical
montages meant to be deep and affecting but really just eat up time in
a thin plot? Oh yeah. Voice-over cross editing leading to an
"avant-garde" but ultimately confusing time twist? Constantly. Bad
music that’s "big" on the "indie scene"? See aforementioned montages.
"Edgy" editing such as jump cuts designed to make you remember that
you’re watching a movie, like hey jerk-off editing is supposed to be
invisible not jarring as hell! Tons. And, as a writer he was able to
shoehorn offensive stereotypes of Jews, gays, men, women, old people,
young people, art people, models, rich people, and poor people into a
movie with maybe 35 minutes of actual plot. Tranatino he ain’t, but
with the visual homage level present he thinks he is. Watching this
movie you’re reminded of at least a dozen other films, and you think
"why aren’t I watching that?"
The saving grace is the acting. Uma Thurman, Meryl Streep and Bryan
Greenberg play the hell out of their roles. Greenberg is especially
good, as we don’t really know what to expect from the relative newcomer
yet (his biggest roles to my knowledge were a recurring role on One Tree Hill as Jake and the sort-of-reality HBO series Unscripted). The characters are well-rounded enough to make you care about them but not so much to make them "too real".
In fact all of the problems I had with this film can be summarized
in two words: writing/directing. Younger so obviously tried to make
this film the edgiest, most real, coolest and most non-establishment
fluff film ever. But, the handheld camera is by far the most obnoxious
trend in film today. The entire movie feels like it’s being viewed
through a seizure, extras walk by and bump the cameraman causing more
vibration. Hell, the utterly pointless helicopter shot has obvious wind
shear. The script is bare bones: older shiksa goddess meets younger
Jewish man, his mother is her therapist- shake and serve. Nothing that
happens is in any way surprising (well the deeply offensive Hamptons
scene is like a stereotype surprise sundae, new and more offensive
traits keep piling up) or particularly enthralling.
See it or don’t, either way you’ll barely remember it the next day.
It’s the ultimate empty calorie without any of the satisfaction.
Nothing sticks, or matters, or makes you care at all. You’ll leave with
the following feelings: Uma rules, Meryl rules, and there’s this new
guy named Bryan Greenberg who’s as talented as he is hot. Oh and you’ll
have a desperate urge to buy a tripod for a Mr. Ben Younger.C+