Rent this …
Because David Cronenberg’s picture about a gangster who tries to find a new, peaceful life with a family is a satisfying story. It has believable characters in identifiable situations (mostly).
Prime—why it’s called that baffles me—is a mindless piece of fluff that’s unsatisfying, features unbelievable characters in a situation that almost no one can identify with, and above all, is boring.
Both came out on DVD and video in recent weeks. I rented them both in one weekend (one per night—yah, I know, I’m boring, too). A History of Violence is a gripping story. I wanted to know what happened next, and I was unable to predict the next move. That doesn’t happen in many movies. While Cronenberg always leaves me feeling somewhat disturbed, and usually, a little disgusted with humanity, he didn’t leave me feeling ripped off.
The story begins with two creepy-looking villains coming out of a seedy roadside motel. It’s hard to hear or understand what they’re saying to each other, but the movie quickly moves to awful and disgusting violence. Plenty of blood to satisfy the hard-core action and horror fans, here.
But then it moves to a believable domestic scene. What I particularly liked about the Stalls’ family situation is that it wasn’t the typical Hollywood family farm with a white picket fence and very tasteful, if a little antique, wallpaper. It was a small house without any expensive trappings. Tom (Viggo Mortenson) has a truck that he can’t get to run; his wife (Maria Bello), however, is a typical Hollywood fiction, a small-town lawyer. Why aren’t any Hollywood leading female characters ever housewives or secretaries?
The villains, led by Ed Harris and William Hurt’s characters, are believable, boorish, completely unglamorous. And the ending leaves you some scope to decide for yourself what happens next, without leaving you with the feeling that Cronenberg just didn’t know what to say at the end. No loose ends, in other words.
A highly satisfying story—not a great film, but certainly worth the rental fee.
Prime is the opposite. It begins with characters familiar to us only through Hollywood—complete stereotypes. Uma Thurman plays Rafi (short for Raphaelle, I guess), a high-fashion photographer with a million-dollar apartment and wardrobe. Meryl Streep plays her therapist, Dr. Lisa Metger, and she should really fire her agent. She tries her Oscar-winning best to give this character some depth, but the script just doesn’t give her enough. Bryan Greenberg (who?) plays David, Metger’s son and Rafi’s love interest. He’s a nice Jewish boy with no personality.
The plot is totally predictable: boy meets girl, they fall in love, they find that his family won’t let them be together, they each discover that the other has a couple of human traits that make them irritating, they break up, and then they run into each other a year later and give each other rueful smiles. And, of course (this is a Hollywood story, after all) David gets rich. Over and over again, I found myself thinking, “Isn’t this movie over yet?”
So rent A History of Violence, and stay away from Prime.