This was originally reviewed on 03/06/17 as part of Sundance London.
Like Spike Jonze’s Her, Marjorie Prime is set in a future not too different from the world we know. This adaptation of Jordan Harrison’s Pulitzer-nominated play takes place largely within mundane and clinical interiors, which, like those of Nancy Meyers’ movies, are luxurious yet cold. The set dressing is so banally familiar that it’s jarring when – surprisingly rarely – someone wields a piece of ultra-modern technology.
Unsurprisingly for a work based on a play, Marjorie Prime is dialogue-driven and has a tendency to be static and sluggish. Subtext cues drama to come, sometimes placing the audience in the frustrating position of waiting for the film to make revelations that have already been anticipated. Patience, though, is rewarded with an ethically chilling payoff at the conclusion.
The cast is fantastic – particularly those who play both humans and AIs – but director Michael Almereyda doesn’t have them do anything more than sit and talk. At length. Who, though, doesn’t want to watch a holographic Jon Hamm explain the plot of My Best Friend’s Wedding? Hamm’s inhuman performance is especially commendable, modulating between uncanny stillness and finely-calibrated movement.
The premise also has shades of Her, and, like the earlier film, raises more questions than it answers. Though this isn’t always a bad thing, here it can feel like wasted opportunity. Almereyda’s screenplay barely scratches the surface of the tech’s potential for abuse.
Though music is put to interesting use as the characters explore their memories, Marjorie Prime is over-scored (by Mica Levi of Under the Skin and Jackie fame), and constituted of obvious, heavy-handed suggestion.
As Almereyda has marshalled a bland visual style and uninteresting soundtrack, Marjorie Prime leans heavily on its source material and performers. It’s a great shame, then, that the intriguing premise, though not quite squandered, falls short of its promise.
CAST: Jon Hamm, Geena Davis, Tim Robbins
DIRECTOR: Michael Almereyda
WRITER: Michael Almereyda
SYNOPSIS: A service that provides holographic recreations of deceased loved ones and allows a man to come face-to-face with the younger version of his late father-in-law.