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Prime (2005)


prime

noun

1 [in  singular] the state or time of greatest vigour or success in a person’s life:

            you’re in the prime of life

To think that you’re in the prime of your life would be an incredibly problematic and, most significantly, subjective conclusion to reach.

To be in a stage of great vigour or success in your life would mean, essentially, that your life circumstances couldn’t get any better – you’re on top of the world – or, at least – on top of your world. I suggest it is problematic because success (and happiness) is as transient and fluid as your opinion; the meaning of success (and happiness) to you could be the fundamental opposite of another’s perception of what success (and happiness) is.

This is at the heart of my interpretation of Prime, and is precisely the case with 37-year-old Rafi (Uma Thurman) who, with all the faith and trust she can muster, confides in her psychoanalyst Lisa (Meryl Streep) about her dually successful and failing life. At the prime of her career, Rafi is very, very freshly divorced from her husband – one week of divorce from a man who the audience never sees, which reflects the nature of their relationship – and is entirely unsure of where her life will lead her. Note that the prevalent theme of Prime is age. For some reason – in our world and not just in our society – age is seen as thus:

“Age is how we determine how valuable you are” – Jane Elliot

As utter nonsense as I believe this is, Elliot’s musing does have some gravity to it. Not truth, but cultural gravity.

As the ever-understanding voice of reason Lisa advises, life is to be lived. Encouraging Rafi to socialise, Rafi agrees and goes to see a movie with her closest friends. She serendipitously (and conveniently) meets a handsome young man, Dave (Bryan Greenberg), whom she knows nothing of. The important point is that the two are drawn instantly to each other – call it lust, fate, or the cliché “click” – and both begin to act like schmoozy, thunderstruck teenagers. Regular readers of this – pool of thoughts website, shall we call it – will know that I abhor cliché, romance, and romantic clichés (see Dakota Skye, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Lost in Translation) but Prime, for some reason, bypassed my radars and seeped into my mind.

Perhaps it’s because of the potential for deep philosophical debate. Questions of age, propriety, hypocrisy, class and social divides and self-expectation are aroused. But that’s all – they’re mentioned fleetingly, but I’ll leave this for the cons list at the end. One very sweet scene in the film involved our post-click protagonists being locked outside the movie theatre together. Despite leaving their friends, Dave’s casual partner and the movie inside, the two seem to want to be locked outside for as long as possible, saying nothing at all. Hardly any words are expressed between the two, but the idea is that these two really are meant for something special.

The comedic premise and hook of the film is somewhat disappointing; Streep is, of course, nearly infallible as the stock, sassy, overbearing and protective Jewish mother. What is interesting is the realities that surface when Rafi and 23-year-old Dave begin dating with a 14-year age gap.

 “People get way too caught up on a number.”

What’s even more interesting and true to life is that their age gap is only a problem once revealed. Despite their instant connection, energy and common interests, Rafi is plagued because “it just smells of poolboy at Sandal’s resort”. Rafi then recreates the “self-fulfilling prophecy” dilemma by attempting to pre-determine the outcome of her relationship with Dave and second guesses everything. Dave, the handsome, struggling painter is overall “very sweet” and is – as established in philosophical schools of thought – stronger than Rafi, precisely because of his age.

Call it his naïveté or his sense of determination, but Dave proves my belief of the strength of young spirit when he is shown trying to mend and re-establish their relationship. Dave is committed, emotionally wealthy, and downright cool. He’s humble, attentive and cultured. I’d have no complaints were I Rafi.

“Age considers; youth ventures” – Rabindranath Tagore

Many times their relationship veers on the edge of failure, but we ask ourselves why. Is Rafi too old? Is Dave too young? Are they simply lovers who are too different?

These questions are all explored in some way or another, but the main focus is on the rom-com narrative. Chaos ensues when Lisa calculates that Rafi’s new boyfriend – whom Rafi is beginning to love (particularly sexually!) – is her own son. Devoutly Jewish, Lisa suffers a moral dilemma when she must decide whether to betray the trust of her patient who is sexually involved with her son, or tolerate Rafi’s confessions in therapy in order to support and help her through the most difficult time of her life. Lisa’s contentions with Rafi and Dave’s relationship lie – hypocritically – in the age gap between the two. Despite encouraging Rafi to start dating again, in order to have fun and remember her worth, Lisa discourages her son from seeing an older woman who is also non-Jewish. Another theme of this film is judgement, and laying it upon others based on superficial aspects of the individual – looks, personality, religion, age.

What’s true in us humans and despite how high our emotional intelligence is – it’s always different when it’s you.

Because of the revelation of Dave and Rafi’s age gap, we, as the audience, begin to see the realistic problems the two begin to see within each other. These range from the way they each dress (Rafi looks as though she has emerged from a Dolce catalogue, whilst Dave wears basketball shorts and tank-tops), who comprises their social circles (Rafi takes a weekend away to her friend’s villa and they each discuss politics, religion and culture whilst Dave’s best friend lives in the Bronx and throws pies at ex-lovers) and finally, the way they each behave.

It’s important to remember the difference between having fun and being immature. Prime helped me realise this. Are you ever too old to jump on a squishy bed? What’s wrong with jumping in a pool naked?

“Are we gonna get in trouble?”

“I hope so.”

Pros

  • Interesting, unique plot that raises lots of thought-provoking questions that challenge (if only casually) your perceptions
  • Perfect casting of the leads
  • Funny depiction of ‘what would you do?’ situations
  • If you erase the mother-son-girlfriend triangle, you’ll have a realistic and troubling account of what happens with relationships like this in “reality”

Cons

  • Deep subject matter, but is rushed through in order to satisfy the romantic-comedy narrative (and keep it a blockbuster, of course)

 “I have t-shirts older than you! How come you seem so much older than me?”

Final Verdict

6.5/10

Most of my closest friends are a few significant years older than I am. As was the case here, with Rafi, it was not a factor at all in the initial stages of establishing a connection. By-passing the issue of age and other superficial factors is important to simply connect (one film which explored this idea was Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive (2011) – where Ryan Gosling does everything in his power to save the woman he loves – despite not knowing anything about her).

But, these superficialities fade as the people you connect with remember who you are, what you are and most importantly, what you have together.

“Advice in old age is foolish; for what can be more absurd than to increase our provisions for the road the nearer we approach to our journey’s end?” – Marcus Tullius Cicero

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One thought on “Prime (2005)

  1. Pingback: Liberal Arts (2012) | Film & Philosophy

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