“Prime” is full of the charm that’s usually missing in high-concept romantic comedies that always want to get somewhere, and grounds itself in a reality not seen either in those films. The charm first radiates from writer/director Ben Younger, whose “Boiler Room” stands proudly in the annals of impressive directorial debuts. With the romance between 23-year-old David (Bryan Greenberg) and 37-year-old Rafi (Uma Thurman), Younger is above the sitcom moments that could happen to longing looks and kisses in lesser hands, with writing that puts these characters squarely in their lives and completely in New York. He is fortunate in having Meryl Streep and Uma Thurman star in his movie, and they always have that look that they’ve chosen the right movie for themselves, in that they are pleased to be playing a role they don’t often have. For Streep, it’s in playing Lisa, David’s mother and Rafi’s psychiatrist, a connection which is discovered among Lisa and Rafi at just the right moment, before we’d become impatient just wondering when they will know. Streep has always made the most of her talent with big roles in high-concept movies like “The Manchurian Candidate” and in smaller films, pinpointing right away who a character is, such as Lisa. Lisa not only fiddles with her clunky necklaces, but worries about her son’s stance toward his Jewish faith, and after finding out that Rafi is dating David, goes through a lot in thinking about that, even to where she’s on her therapist’s couch, pouring it out.
Thurman successfully looks older in a few shots. Rafi looks a little tired from her job, producing fashion model shoots, and there’s even a shot of tired eyes that would surprise anyone who’s only seen her in Tarantino’s films. Thurman goes for simple honesty. Rafi laughs at first when she finds out how old David is, making jokes about it, but soon is hit with the seriousness of it. She’s at a point where she can still have kids, she just got divorced from a loveless marriage, here is a guy who can love her and ok, help her love again, but how far can this go? Age always hangs in the air of this romance, from David’s friend Morris (Jon Abrahams) who throws pies in the faces of women who rejected him and questions David as to whether he should go through with this relationship, and Rafi’s friends, who teeter between teasing Rafi about the relationship and, for one gay friend, wishing that Rafi had found David, but then handed him off to him. Fortunately, there’s subtle humor and warmth in that scene, which doesn’t make a big issue over the friend’s proclamation which is pulled out by his other friends.
Another very big factor to “Prime” being so warm and considerate of its characters (including David’s grandparents) is New York. Because of New York’s attempts to bring filming back to the state, and especially in New York City it would seem, “Prime” was filmed in New York and it has the inimitable feeling of characters moving around in a New York universe, on a much smaller scale of course, waiting in line at the Magnolia Bakery, along with a number of locations I couldn’t point out with a ripped-out streetlight, being the non-New Yorker I am. It makes for distinct moments that would cause an entirely different movie if it was set elsewhere. And since Younger also has Bryan Greenberg as his male lead, he’s created a romance that will surely be discovered and passed around for years to come; at first seen by people surprised they hadn’t heard about it, then urging friends to see it. Some borrowing involved.
Because of the subtleties of “Prime” and that Universal seemingly found it necessary to treat any DVD release with the same respect, there’s a lot of simplicity on the disc, from deleted scenes and outtakes that are what they are, and a making-of featurette that’s so far from the typical pat-on-the-back-circle-jerk-orgy featurettes that are usually found on big-name DVDs. It’s surprising to hear a director use “esoteric” unpretentiously in discussing his movie, but Younger has done it and producer Jennifer Todd, who worked with Younger on “Boiler Room” and also gets ample time to speak, is a most literate and well-spoken producer. As many projects as she worked on and as many her name is attached to now, you get the feeling that when she’s working on a project that may be one of four in a day, she has her full attention on that project. Her head’s definitely not in other clouds. Streep has her time and so does Thurman and they’re pleased by what they’ve done. They’re confident, and they’ve got such a good hold on what they’ve done, just like Younger.
That’s obviously not enough for this DVD and since New Yorkers would likely want to know the stories about scenes being filmed at their favorite places, Younger and Todd also have an audio commentary that must have been recorded before the film’s release, with some talk about “Prime” having to appeal the “R” rating given to them by the MPAA, only because of “clitoris” and “penis” being said by Rafi and David, during a few scenes. And Younger also reveals one of the rules of the MPAA in that only one non-sexual “f**k” is allowed for a PG-13. “No straight clinical sex talk, but violence is fine,” Younger quips. He and Todd also go through the memories of what was happening where they filmed and what parts of the movie are autobiographical for Younger, such as his mother being a therapist. All of “Prime” is ripe for the kind of discovery that comes with seeing it on a video store shelf after either passing it a few times or not finding what you wanted the first time. It has that exact innate satisfaction.