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Director: Ben Younger
Runtime: 105 minutes
Cast: Meryl Streep, Uma Thurman, Bryan Greenberg

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It's a lot easier to appreciate Prime for what it isn't than what it is. It's a romantic comedy, but one where the two could-be lovers don't meet cute, they just meet. (It's probably not possible to meet cute at a Michelangelo Antonioni double feature.) Instead of superficial impediments getting in the way of their relationship (obviously unsuitable boyfriends, wacky misunderstandings), they have real problems. He (Bryan Greenberg) is considerably younger than she (Uma Thurman), and also considerably more Jewish. This causes problems with Greenberg's mother (Meryl Streep) that true love alone can't wipe away—if it is love. Greenberg isn't sure. Writer-director Ben Younger isn't making the type of film that rushes in with easy answers or ties everything up in a neat bow.

Sadly, Prime also doesn't work to keep audiences from composing mental shopping lists or wondering if there's still time to catch A History Of Violence in the next theater over. It's easy on the eyes: Younger takes fine advantage of his New York locations and photogenic cast. He also has a nice grasp of how to stage scenes of breezy interaction without forcing the moment. The film's dealings with its central contrivance—that Streep is also Thurman's therapist, unbeknownst to anyone else involved—feel almost embarrassed.

Still, there's something to be said for that plot device, if only because it brings Prime's central issues into focus. It's refreshing to see a film that talks about differences in age and religion and doesn't just wave them away with movie magic. If only it were more than talk. Greenberg and Thurman are both engaging, but they can't quite compensate for their characters' shallowness. Streep, on the other hand, just can't stop compensating. Her oy-vey-can-you-believe-the-kid-and-his-shiksa performance is all studied mannerisms with no real heart.

Younger's direction is pretty studied too, albeit in a way that suggests he might get beyond paying homage to his inspirations one of these days. He made a striking debut with the Wall Street and David Mamet-inspired Boiler Room. Prime is his Woody Allen nod, all elegant cityscapes, neurotic love affairs, broad comic asides, and tasteful cultural references, plus a closing scene that owes more than a dab to the end of Annie Hall. It passes the time, but Ben Younger is going to have to make a Ben Younger film one of these days.