Marjorie Prime (2017)
1h 38min | Drama Sci-fi
Opens Friday, August 25 @ Angelika Dallas and Plano
Synopsis: In the near future, a time of artificial intelligence: 86-year-old Marjorie (veteran actress Lois Smith)—a jumble of disparate, fading memories—has a handsome new companion (Jon Hamm) who looks like her deceased husband and is programmed to feed the story of her life back to her. What would we remember, and what would we forget, if given the chance? Also starring Geena Davis and Tim Robbins, MARJORIE PRIME is based on Jordan Harrison’s Pulitzer-nominated play, exploring memory and identity, love and loss.
Review: There was a lot about the premise of MARJORIE PRIME that grabbed my attention. Not only the expert cast but the concept of memory and how it fades over time. The idea of having a walking talking database that would relate our life’s stories was intriguing. The movie doesn’t quite deliver to my expectations but does have a few moments worth remembering.
The performances in this film are the saving grace. Without the casual, everyday emotion of the delivery the script would not stand. Lois Smith is award worthy as Marjorie, a woman at the end of life trying to hold on to glimpses of her life and family. Marjorie’s daughter Tess (Gena Davis) and Tess’ husband Jon (Tim Robbins) supply her with a companion (Jon Hamm) whose job is to converse with her daily, retelling stories of the past. As the movie progresses you soon figure out that like any computer you only get out what you put in.
Robbins and Davis are fantastic in this film as well. I am sad to say that I sort of forgot how powerful they both are on screen. They each capture the realness of the characters and never over act or try to manipulate the audience. It is a delicate handling of the script that delivers such emotion. Robbins brings that same genuine smile and heart that made films like Shawshank Redemption so remarkable. Of course this film is nowhere near the level of that nor will it be more than a one and done. But it is worth viewing once for sure.
The main issue I had with the script is that we don’t get nearly enough meat. It is all concept and well placed conversations. I am not sure how it would work as a play either unless it was stripped down so that all you have are the conversations in simplest form. As a movie there is more needed. It is wafer thin and the last act of the film is a myriad of confusion and disjointed segues. I was able to understand the point of what was happening but the lack of synergy made it lose its impact. It felt more like a prologue in a book where you get bullet points of where people ended up. Again it was all concept with little heart.
I would love this as a book. Where chapter after chapter could delve into the need for the technology and how it would enhance later stages of life. How you would have it from your early years and it store up event after event to replay to you later. Also, to get more of what memories you wanted it to keep and which ones were too painful. Should it keep those things you long to forget? So much of that is lost in the movie due to time and pacing.
MARJORIE PRIME is unrated but has some adult content including very brief nudity and brief language. The themes of love and loss are intended for older audiences as well. If you are looking for a a film that is slow paced with an intriguing concept and powerful – despite the script – performances then I would easily recommend it. If you want more meat and less foundation you will probably walk away dissatisfied.