Critics' Pick

Marjorie Prime (NR)

Comedy 98 min. September 8, 2017
By Danny King
Leave it to Michael Almereyda (Experimenter) to make a science-fiction movie that consists of little more than scenes of two characters talking in plushly appointed living rooms. Marjorie Prime, adapted from a play by Jordan Harrison, takes place at an unspecified point in the future, when intelligent holograms of deceased loved ones (known as "Primes") have emerged as a common method of dealing with grief. The first dialogue scene -- set, like much of the film, in a house on the ocean -- positions Marjorie (Lois Smith), who is in her 80s and fighting dementia and arthritis, in conversation with the much-younger-looking Prime (Jon Hamm) of her late husband Walter. She sits on a sofa, occasionally taking a scoop of peanut butter as she speaks to the Prime of beloved memories (one involves the '90s Julia Roberts rom-com My Best Friend's Wedding, which, surprisingly, gets employed as a structural device); the Prime sits, rigidly and firmly, on a couch across from her.

Like most of the interactions in the movie -- which gradually sneaks forward in time without fanfare and comes to involve Marjorie's daughter Tess (Geena Davis) and Tess' husband Jon (Tim Robbins) -- this introductory chat calmly and poignantly peels back emotional layers, dredging up past tragedies and revealing still-present grievances. Almereyda reaches a peak near the end when Tess and a Prime, seated in half-darkness, listen to the Band singing "I Shall Be Released," Davis' profound silence -- head swaying; eyes open one moment and closed tenderly the next -- communicating enormous power in a movie that generally has words to spare.
Michael Almereyda Geena Davis, Jon Hamm, Tim Robbins, Lois Smith, Stephanie Andujar Michael Almereyda, Jordan Harrison FilmRise Releasing

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