Making a sharp left turn from his stunning Boiler Room debut-a rough, raw, stylish, music-driven, indie-spirited, earnest look at a nice Jewish boy gone wrong and greedy-writer-director Ben Younger stays put in the New York he knows but is now behind the wheel of the lighter and puffier Prime, a sweet romantic comedy about a young divorcée taking up with a much younger struggling artist who happens to be the beloved Jewish son of her much-mothering shrink.
Hip downtown photo stylist Rafi (Uma Thurman), recovering from her divorce with the help of her family-entrenched Upper West Side therapist Lisa Metzger (Meryl Streep), meets David (Bryan Greenberg) while in line for an Antonioni double bill in the Village. He's 23, she's 37, but who cares? Sparks fly, they catch, and the attractive couple begin an affair that ignites.
Rafi leans on shrink Lisa as the romance progresses; David leans on wild and crazy pal Morris, who has problems with women, as the romance hits speed bumps. Eventually, slowly, Lisa (who, for professional reasons that serve the story, does not use her married name) begins to realize from Rafi's increasingly racy sharing that the new love in her patient's life is indeed her son.
"Oy" is the only way to put it. Well, not quite. Lisa, who herself is in therapy, handles the matter quite admirably. Also, Prime really is nice, often charming, occasionally funny. The romantic leads please; other characters seem to belong there.
Streep delivers a good Upper West Side shrink and over-caring Jewish mother. But apart from some on-target facial expressions suggesting a therapist's ability to hide anger and neuroses, she doesn't get the physical business right. Her Dr. Metzger appropriately employs sweeping hand and arm movements, but these are more Emily Dickinson than Bea Arthur. Otherwise, as verklempt matron and ethnic archetype, she gets well-deserved laughs that this film needs more of. Jon Abrahams, with not quite a Jack Black (High Fidelity) or Kevin James (Hitch) comedic breakout, adds some much-needed sizzle as David's wired, macho pal Morris.
Prime is easy eye candy, bright and fun enough to hold interest. But it's strictly mainstream, for the date crowd. Hopefully, enough filmgoers will consider it prime time, but in a crowded field, it's tougher and tougher for "nice" to deliver.