Monday, September 11, 2017

Marjorie Prime [2017]

MPAA (UR would be PG-13) (3 Stars)  AVClub (B+)  Fr. Dennis (3 1/2 Stars)

IMDb listing
Los Angeles Times (J. Chang) review (G. Cheshire) review
AVClub (I. Vishnevetsky) review

Marjorie Prime [2017] (screenplay and directed by Michael Almereyda based on the stage play by Jordon Harrison) is a fascinating low budget indie sci-fi piece with a SINGLE simple "special effect" sequence that could have been pulled-off by a 10th grader ;-) ...

Set in the near future, it's about a relatively wealthy family whose aging mother / matriarch Marjorie (played by Lois Smith) is slowly coming down with dementia.  To perhaps help her better remember (or to simply accompany her, as her world inevitably shrinks / slows down) her daughter Tess (played wonderfully by Geena Davis) and son-in-law Jon (played by Tim Robbins) decide to buy for her a new programmable gadget called a "Prime" ... Basically, a "Prime" is a programmable holographic companion, which, since it is programmable, could be programmed to resemble (in the case of this story) a deceased loved-one.  So they buy her a "Prime", which Marjorie decides to program as a 40-year-old ("in his prime" ;-) version of her deceased husband Walter (played with wonderful, somewhat stilted/programmed inquisitiveness by Jon Hamm). 

Now the trick here is that though perhaps his holographic physical appearance was no doubt designed through "uploaded photographs," his memory bank is programmed by conversation.  The more one talked to him, thus feeding him with information, the more he becomes "real."  To make Walter Prime "more real" Marjorie has to talk to him, sharing her memories of her times with Walter (her deceased husband).  That puts grown daughter Tess and her husband Jon off the hook as Marjorie spends most of her time now talking to a quite interested Walter "Prime," and Jon seems to have fun then talking to Walter "Prime" as well as he "corrects" some of Marjorie's memories to better fit his own recollections of things.

The concept of creating such a "Prime" who exists primarily through the memories of others is truly fascinating.  And the story starts to play with it ... Midway through the movie Marjorie dies and Jon buys another "Prime" (now Marjorie "Prime") to help his wife Tess cope with the loss of her Mother.

Then another character dies (presumably in some tragic accident).  And soon there are THREE "Primes", interacting now _primarily_ with _each other_ with only one human feeding the three with  memories.

It's just a brilliantly simple film, though very well acted: All the actors play their characters straight as an arrow, producing a fascinating vision of the future in which at least some versions of some people could live past their human lives in this world, based on the memories that others had of them.

It just makes for a brilliant, just brilliant sci-fi story... and WITHOUT any "car chases" or "starship battles" ;-)

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