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View Full Version : MARJORIE PRIME (2017) Intriguing Sci-Fi lite tale of A.I. and memory



JoeS
08-28-2017, 02:18 PM
Michael Almereyda's adaptation of Jordan Harrison's Pulizer Prize nominated play is an intriguing bit of sci-fi lite. MARJORIE PRIME begins almost as if it were a ghost story. Marjorie (a superb Lois Smith) is sitting with her deceased husband Walter Jon Hamm) for a chat. Marjorie is a very elderly and frail woman suffering the infirmaries of old age including bouts of severe memory loss. Walter is an A.I. Hologram (called a Prime) programmed to look and relate as her spouse. Significantly, Marjorie has chosen to be with the Walter of his 40-something appearance.

In keeping with the A.I. theme, the Primes are set up to continually learn from the information that it is told, hears, sees and experiences in order to became more and more like the human it is replacing. Majorie's daughter Tess (Geena Davis) and son-in-law Jon (Tim Robbins) are also present in order to care for Marjorie - and, to advance Walter Prime's learning curve. At first, Tess and Jon's presence comes off as a bit of an intrusion in the Marjorie-Walter Prime futuristic ghost story, but, it soon develops that there are a couple of more complications that their presence is meant to convey. There are a couple of other minor characters, but, this is essentially a four person play, as befits its stage origins (Almereyda's attempts to 'open up' the adaptation are fairly minor and not all that effective save for some flashbacks).

As the movie progresses, a few more layers are revealed. But, although there are some nice nuances, they don't always advance our understanding of the themes of memory and loss that are at the heart of the story. Some of the later revelations seem more redundant than illuminating. At a sparse 98 minutes (including credits) this is a case where the slim running time isn't long enough to explore its ambitions. Almereyda's screenplay does give greater depth to the sci-fi underpinnings than the play supposedly did. But, those expecting a straight sci-fi tale will likely be somewhat disappointed (even though it takes place in an unspecified future, everyone wears modern clothes, drive current-day cars etc. The only sci-fi accessory is a clear plastic card cellphone). But, those elements aren't at the heart of the movie. It's an engagingly intimate tale with a lovely central performance.

P.S. I normally don't go in much for picky goofs because I have been working on movies and TV for decades and understand how many of these mistakes happen (or, aren't 'goofs' at all), BUT---- The opening scene of the movie is a long conversation between Marjorie and her 'husband'. Behind Jon Hamm is a regular 8x10 framed photo. What looks like a crew member is reflected in the glass of the framed picture. It wouldn't normally be a distraction, but, that shot of Hamm and the frame is on screen for at least five minutes of total running time. It becomes a distraction.