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Marjorie Prime (Sundance London 2017 Review)

Marjorie Prime, directed by Michael Almereyda and based on Jordan Harrison’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated play of the same name, has a fascinating premise and doesn’t seem to quite know what to do with it.

In the near future, a service exists that provides holographic recreations of deceased loved ones. These holograms are called Primes, and over time, they learn to adopt the personality, mannerisms and memories of the people they’re meant to represent. Marjorie (Lois Smith), an old woman with poor health who has trouble remembering, has a Prime of her late husband Walter (Jon Hamm) and looks to him for companionship and comfort.

Smith, who originated the role of Marjorie when it was still a play is great as the frail, sweet old woman trying to hold on to her memories. Hamm’s performance as Walter-Prime finds the right balance between unnerving and comforting. He’s quiet and inquisitive, with an uncanny sense of composure. Geena Davis and Tim Robbins also deliver solid performances as Marjorie’s daughter and son-in-law, respectively.

This is important┬ábecause Marjorie Prime is very character-focused and dialogue-driven film. Many scenes involve one-on-one conversations where both participants are sitting. It’s a drama that tackles human memory and interpersonal relationships in a quiet, meditative sort of way.

The sci-fi premise is ripe for a meaningful and profound exploration of memory, but the movie itself never really gets there. It tentatively skirts around it and implies a greater depth than it actually has. What Marjorie Prime has to offer is just enough to make for a fascinating sci-fi short film, but not a feature-length drama.

By the end, the movie stagnates, making the same or similar points over and over again without having much of anything new or interesting to say about them. The early scenes involving Marjorie and Walter-Prime are easily some of its best and the rest of Marjorie Prime tries and fails to live up to that promising start.

It’s almost the textbook definition of having a great idea for a story and then not really knowing how to develop it all the way through. Like many of its characters, Marjorie Prime just sort of quietly fades away. It leaves an impression, but only just and doesn’t capitalize on the numerous possibilities that come with the premise.

Still, the performances are great across the board and if the premise sounds interesting to you, it’s probably worth at least checking out.

Rating
6.0
Pros
  • Solid performances, particularly from Smith and Hamm
  • Interesting premise
Cons
  • Fails to live up to its promising start and premise

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