The thought-provoking Marjorie Prime goes from stage to screen with Lois Smith delivering an awards-worthy performance.
Written for the screen and directed by Michael Almereyda, the film stars Jon Hamm, Geena Davis, Lois Smith and Tim Robbins. Smith reprises her role as Marjorie from Jordan Harrison’s Pulitzer-nominated play.
Harrison had been inspired to write the play after seeing his grandmother battle dementia and after reading Brian
Christian’s 2011 book, The Most Human Human: What Artificial Intelligence Teaches Us About Being
This film is certainly going to be one that makes viewers think. I had to sit on it for a few days before writing my review. Initially, my thoughts were: “This film is a yawner. Pass on it.” I’ve had some time to think about it and even though it may be too slow-paced for my comfort, it’s a really good film that explores some thought-provoking questions. Would I have benefited from seeing the stage play prior to watching the film? Sure. It always helps to be familiar with the source material and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.
Jon Hamm stars as Walter Prime. Assumed to be a caregiver at first given his interactions with Marjorie at the start of the film, Walter turns out to be a hologram and the younger form of Marjorie’s late husband.
Marjorie (Smith) is suffering from dementia and Walter is there to help jog her memory. It makes one wonder as to whether such holograms are a good idea as expensive as they may be. Marjorie lives at home with her daughter, Tess (Davis), and son-in-law, Jon (Robbins). It’s up to Jon to program Walter and fill Walter in on the history. Walter’s there to keep Marjorie company.
Tess isn’t comfortable with seeing the younger version of her dead father walking around the house. Her discomfort only grows following Marjorie’s death. Don’t worry–she’s not out of the picture just yet because Jon decides to make a hologram of his late mother-in-law as a way of helping Tess heal her relationship. It fails completely as Tess finds herself going down a dark path and ending her life. This is when Jon goes on to create yet another hologram–this time of Tess following her suicide.
While the story takes place well into the future, the dates are left unknown but Marjorie is 86 and we know that Walter proposes to her after they watched My Best Friend’s Wedding, a 1997 release. If she were to have proposed when she was 25, this would place her birth in 1972 and the film in 2058.
Having a detailed memory myself, I know what it’s like to remember things that you really don’t want to. When someone goes through dementia or Alzheimer’s, they have no control over what they remember. How it sits with their family members is what the film looks to explore. How do they want to remember their loved ones after death? I still miss my grandmother over 16 years after her passing and she would have turned 100 years old this month. Her memory lives on through her family and home videos. As for a hologram? I just don’t know.
Following its world premiere at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, FilmRise opened Marjorie Prime in select theaters on August 18, 2017. The film is expected to have a national roll-out in the weeks to come. It will start playing in Chicago on August 25, 2017 at Facets Cinematheque.