Watching Meryl Streep dig into a juicy dramatic role is a thrilling experience, but I’ve always wished the actress would do more comedies.
Freed from the burdens of historical accuracy and complex accents, Streep has demonstrated on more than one occasion her ability to let loose comedically to delicious effect. But her equally expert funny side doesn’t get nearly the attention she’s received for big-gun dramas like “Sophie’s Choice,” “Out of Africa” or her 2011 Oscar vehicle “The Iron Lady.”
Most of Streep’s comedies have not been hits or particularly well-received by critics and audiences, but I’ve found myself returning again and again to movies such as “Heartburn” in which her warmth and comic timing were showcased.
The other night I popped in a DVD of one of the star’s least known films — the 2005 romantic comedy “Prime” — and had a great time watching her play an Upper West Side Jewish therapist who finds herself in a terrible dilemma after she learns one of her patients (Uma Thurman) has been dating her son (Bryan Greenberg).
Lisa Metzger practices under her maiden name so her patient Rafi has no way of knowing that David Bloomberg is her doctor’s 23-year-old son. (The coincidence might have seemed like a stretch to many moviegoers, but I am always amazed by the sometimes small circles in which New Yorkers often travel.)
Streep leaves the heavy lifting in the movie to Thurman and Greenberg in the role of mismatched lovers — he’s 23 and Jewish, she’s 37 and agnostic — but the star is charming throughout.
Streep also gets the funniest scene in the movie — after Lisa figures out who Rafi is dating, but before she can come up with a way to end their suddenly inappropriate doctor-patient relationship. Lisa has been urging the recently divorced Rafi to have some fun with a younger boyfriend, but has to disguise her horror when the patient begins to talk about the sexual bliss she has found with David.
“Prime” was written and directed by Ben Younger who brings great New York City color to the film. The age gulf between the two lovers is not exactly May-December (more like May-September) but it provides an extra comic and sexual spark to the story.
The low key charm and surprising realism of the bittersweet ending set “Prime” apart from most other rom-coms of the past decade, but sadly, moviegoers rejected Younger’s attempt to do something new with a tired genre.