The Future Focuses On The Past In Michael Almereyda’s “Marjorie Prime”

 

 
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Posted December 29, 2017 by

 
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Michael Almereyda’s philosophical sci-fi film “Marjorie Prime” depicts a not-so-distant future, in which holographic versions of deceased loved ones provide comfort to those left behind to mourn their passing. This is a different approach to the impending, technology-ruled future that films have portrayed for more than a century. This is not A.I. trying to destroy the virus of humanity, nor is it some Atlantean tale of dangerous, technological power run amuck. It is a story of healing, and the need in all of us to fix whatever is wrong in our past.

Adapted from the Pulitzer-nominated play by Jordan Harrison, you can see from the film’s opening that it is meant for the stage. Close conversations in clean, picturesque rooms, with the sound of waves crashing in the background, aren’t exactly the stuff of cinematic dreams. Almereyda supplies his talented cast with a tight, well-written script, though, and the movie draws you in immediately.

Walter Prime (Jon Hamm) is a holographic version of a man who died 15 years earlier. His purpose is to provide therapeutic company to Marjorie (Lois Smith), who is losing her memory with age and sickness. They have conversations about how Walter and Marjorie fell in love, their children, and even their pet dog Toni. The more they talk, the more Walter Prime learns. Issues of memory and human identity are at the center of Almereyda’s film, and it is the intense focus on those things that make “Marjorie Prime” so emotionally gripping. He refrains from being preachy or heavy-handed, and instead gives us tender drama through a lens that allows us to decide how we feel about the questions being asked.

The cast, including Geena Davis as Marjorie and Walter’s daughter and Tim Robbins as her husband Jon, are all fantastic and handle their emotionally driven characters with grace and ease. Stephanie Andujar also delivers a nice performance in the supporting role of Marjorie’s caretaker. Each character is honest and easy to relate to. That is of course except for Walter Prime, who Mr. Hamm plays to perfection. Being the only element of a sci-fi movie that actually makes it sci-fi is no easy task, and he knocks it out of the park.

“Marjorie Prime” was a nice surprise for me. I expected something akin to a long episode of “Black Mirror” (which also would’ve been fine), but instead got a human drama about whether or not memory and identity are bound to each other. It is sure to be grouped in with movies like “Her” and “Eternal Sunshine” (both great films in their own right), but in my opinion sets itself apart as something different.


MikeD

 


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