THE STORY – Eighty-six-year-old Marjorie spends her final, ailing days with a computerized version of her deceased husband. With the intent to recount their life together, Marjorie’s Prime relies on the information from her and her kin to develop a more complex understanding of his history. As their interactions deepen, the family begins to develop diverging recounts of their lives, drawn into the chance to reconstruct the often painful past.
THE CAST – Jon Hamm, Geena Davis, Lois Smith & Tim Robbins
THE TEAM – Michael Almereyda (Director/Writer)
THE RUNNING TIME – 98 Minutes
By Matt N.
”Marjorie Prime,” based on Jordan Harrison’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated play of the same name, is an introspective and reflective rumination on life and death. It takes an interesting look at the grieving process through its unique concept: that a computer hologram of a deceased loved one can be used as a means to cope with the passing of that loved one. It may not be the same person. They may not be able to physically interact with you. However, something about having that person’s presence (As artificial) as it may be, is in itself, comforting. With deeply felt performances and restrained direction from Michael Almereyda, “Marjorie Prime” is an independent film worth seeking out.
Marjorie (Lois Smith) is an eighty-six-year old woman who has not been herself since her husband Walter (Jon Hamm) passed away a few years prior. On the decline both physically and emotionally, Lois’ daughter Tess (Geena Davis) and Jon (Tim Robbins) move into her beach home and do their best to take care of her. However, it’s the inclusion of a computerized holographic version of her deceased husband (Now much younger, as preferred by Marjorie) that allows Marjorie to calm down and regain a sense of life again. The Prime relies on information about the subject he/she is portraying to its owner in an effort to comfort that individual as best as they can. As Marjorie’s interactions with the Prime deepens, so too does the family’s understanding and reliance on the Prime’s abilities to provide comfort after death.
Being a play originally, “Marjorie Prime” lends itself well to its actors and their talents. All of the main principal actors, Jon Hamm, Geena Davis, Tim Robbins and a scene stealing Lois Smith all do phenomenal work here. Director Michael Almereyda, who is an accomplished independent film director, allows the actors room to breathe so that we can best understand their characters, their imperfections and their desire to understand life’s greatest mysteries. It’s a very melancholy piece of work with very little in the way of optimism. We use technology today for so much, that the movie takes a look at how far we could take it. We already have technology resurrecting deceased actors in cinema. How long before we see that technology in our everyday lives? Are we ready to accept such a technology? Why are we so frightened by the end of life that we’ll do anything to preserve it, even once it is gone? “Marjorie Prime,” asks very intriguing questions such as this and it’s all delivered by the actors, through Almereyda’s words.
The film does have a few shortcomings, most of which reveal themselves in the third act. The film starts to go deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole of its own themes and even at a brisk 97 minutes, the film starts to get restless, as we are unsure of how it will end. Luckily, once the ending does arrive, it concludes on a haunting note that is provocative and feels right for a movie such as this. Also, (And I know this is nitpicking), even though Almereyda does everything he can to open up the movie, one cannot help but feel that the material still feels like a play and is better-suited for the stage than the silver screen. The questions and themes which the movie raises are awe-inspiring and cinematographer Sean Williams does an interesting job visually with the movie’s aesthetic, utilizing high key lighting and a hazed look. However, “Marjorie Prime,” like “Fences” last year feels stuck in its medium, thus not allowing us to enjoy its full potential.
THE FINAL SCORE
THE GOOD – Excellent performances which are given room to breathe by Almereyda’s direction. Very thoughtful themes and questions that leave you thinking once the credits roll.
THE BAD – Being based on a play, the movie finds itself too restricted to become something truly special.
THE FINAL SCORE – 6/10