Marjorie Prime

One of my complaints with the movie Fences was that it felt like the stage play brought to screen, with nothing added. That’s the same complaint I have with this movie, but at least the characters said interesting things. That doesn’t mean this film is without its flaws.

Lois Smith (Minority Report, Twister, Falling Down, The Nice Guys) reprises her stage role (in which she was nominated for a Tony). She’s terrific in the role, as a woman suffering a form of dementia, and finding solace in a hologram of her deceased husband (Jon Hamm). This bothers her daughter (Geena Davis), who we find out has never had the best relationship with her mom. The son-in-law (Tim Robbins) seems more open to the comforting this AI hologram provides, and it’s interesting when he has a few drinks, and feeds the guy stories about his life.

I preferred the movie Robbins’ ex (Susan Sarandon) did about this — Robot and Frank. It’s a more interesting story and fleshes out the characters better. It’s a shame, because Marjorie Prime poses thought provoking questions, yet it barely skims the surface of the questions it asks.

I kept thinking of AI movies I liked so much more. Another that comes to mind is Spike Jonze’s Her (Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson). And you don’t want to get me started on Ex Machina, which was my favorite movie of 2014.

Michael Almereyda (Ethan Hawke’s Hamlet in 2000) did the screen adaptation of the Jordan Harrison Pulitzer Prize-nominated play. And as I mentioned in the beginning, this all takes place in Marjorie’s beach house.

There are times when Hamm’s hologram character has a cadence in his talking that’s perfect for an AI device. But we’ve seen that before, too. Most recently, the bartender (Michael Sheen) in Passengers, Scarlett Johansson (Her), Kevin Spacey (Moon), and Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina).

So this isn’t the most original, low budget sci-fi story. At one point in the beginning, I thought it was The Notebook but with a robot telling his wife the story of their courtship.

I didn’t care for a number of the edits in the film, going from one close-up to another. The pacing was also rather slow. My wife and I were bored by about a third of the film.

The movie also gets a bit repetitive in scenes, and we sometimes hear the same questions and answers (a hologram saying “I’ll remember that.”).

The movie feels manipulative and in the end it all felt….lifeless.

It’s a terrific cast, and a movie that adults that aren’t into Kingsman, will probably like. The early reviews have been strong.

It opens at the Angelika Film Center.

2 stars out of 5.