Here's my strategy for winning the hand of Uma Thurman: Claim Meryl Streep as my adopted Jewish mother. (Sorry, Mom.) In my master plan, Thurman—an artsy, wealthy, sophisticated Fifth Avenue type—also happens to be desperately insecure. She's just been through a painful divorce (hmmm . . . life into art, perhaps?), though we have no idea in the romantic comedy Prime what kind of an idiot would give her up. Her insecurity leads her to Streep, a surprisingly ditsy Upper West Side psychiatrist excessively fond of crazy jade beads and African-print blouses, who prepares her patient to love again. Then I pounce: Streep's my mother, Manhattan's a small town, so naturally we'll hook up—maybe in the same line for an Antonioni film at the Cinema Village? And Thurman will then tell Mom all about our sex life in their therapy sessions. Oy vey.
Actually, my chances are better in real life. Prime's machinery of coincidence grinds along with very little pleasure for viewers, Streep, Thurman, or TV actor Bryan Greenberg, who plays Streep's son, the lucky 23-year-old painter who lands Thurman's 37-year-old character. Why the age mismatch? Wouldn't the son-mother-patient confidentiality triangle be enough to support a half-decent flick? Writer- director Ben Younger showed a good sense of potential conflict in 2000's Boiler Room, and he even made good use of Vin Diesel there. But that film, like Prime, utterly failed to develop its crux ideas.
Greenberg and Thurman look plenty cute together, but Younger doesn't write anything cute for them to do together. She tells him she's having fun. Her friends tell her he's funny. But we don't see any evidence for these assertions. Younger has the locations right—basically the same turf Woody Allen has since abandoned for London. Without the jokes, however, which I guess Allen packed with him. At a certain point, as if suddenly realizing this deficit, Younger begins randomly cutting to the painter's old girlfriends, to his wacky relatives, and to a pal who tosses pies in the faces of his exes. By then, you just want the movie to admit defeat: You wish you could leave after the first sex scene (30 minutes in), buy the DVD in the lobby, and save the rest to watch over Chinese takeout sometime. Here's a thought—call Uma to see it, too. I'm sure she lost interest at the same point. (PG-13)