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With 'Marjorie Prime,' Ovation Presents a Moving Film on Our Common Life Experience
February 4, 2018  | By David Hinckley  | 4 comments

So here’s the deal: Even if you’re not going to exercise the option, you should know there is at least one show on television Sunday evening that is not the Super Bowl.

Ovation TV apparently feels the same way, because it is offering the broadcast premiere of the movie Marjorie Prime at 7 p.m. ET.

Marjorie Prime is a small movie with big stars who include Lois Smith (top), Jon Hamm, Tim Robbins and Geena Davis.

It’s a futuristic drama in which the living can talk with holograms of deceased relatives and friends. These holograms have the first name of the departed, and the quasi-surname Prime. 

Smith plays Marjorie, an 86-year-old woman suffering the maddeningly sporadic effects of dementia. She has chosen to speak with her husband Walter, who died 15 years earlier, and because one gets a choice in these matters, she has selected a young version of Walter, played by Hamm (left).

The Primes, who are contracted through an artificial intelligence computer program, come with a wide breadth of general knowledge, including the ability to speak many languages.

They do not know the full backstory of the persona they have assumed. So Walter Prime must get some of the details of the real Walter’s life from Marjorie, who then likes to hear him repeat them back to her as if it were his own story.

Walter Prime also talks with Marjorie’s son-in-law Jon (Robbins, below), who gives him additional details and anecdotes about Walter’s life. Walter Prime then uses those details in conversations with Marjorie.

Marjorie’s daughter Tess (Davis, right) resists this whole Prime thing, finding it disturbing. Jon argues that if it brings comfort to Marjorie, what’s the downside?

As all this suggests, Marjorie Prime is sci-fi with no special effects, no explosions, no time-travel and no superpowers.

The existence of this artificial intelligence Prime is all the movie asks the viewer to accept. Beyond that, it doesn’t even offer much action. The group occasionally goes outdoors, sometimes joined by Marjorie’s caretaker Julie (Stephanie Andujar), but otherwise the whole hour and a half is conversation.

The characters do eventually move forward in time, as they do in the acclaimed Jordan Harrison play on which the movie is based. Things happen in Jon’s and Tess’s lives, some of which alter their earlier perceptions of the Primes.

Mostly, though, the dramatic progression in Marjorie Prime underscores the common threads in all human lives, including the insecurity, the frustration, the everyday pleasures and the inexorable passage of time.

In that sense, Marjorie Prime is no more futuristic than Thornton Wilder’s Our Town, despite its roots in the implications of onrushing modern technology.

Presumably, no one involved with this movie expected it to score box-office gold, which means they just thought it was a story they wanted to be part of telling. That comes across in the performances of all four leads, which are so matter-of-factly conversational that by movie standards they almost feel understated.

In other words, it couldn’t be more different from the Super Bowl. But through the miracle of television, it’s there.

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I Googled this movie and find that it's available through Amazon Prime. If you don't subscribe there, it can be rented for $3.99. It's also available for the same price on YouTube. I don't use Ovation so not sure if they will rerun it or notl
Feb 19, 2018   |  Reply
When will this movie air again? I forgot it was on and only saw the last 45 minutes of it. I watch ovation channel daily and have gone thru the guide as far as t will allow and I don't see it again.
Feb 13, 2018   |  Reply
Ovation.... Could they hide it any more efficiently?
I'm not at all certain that I'm pleased that I found out about it. --
Only to be unable to access it.
Feb 6, 2018   |  Reply
Mark Isenberg
It could be a great production but because it aired on awful Ovation,almost nobody watched and few care.Ovation remains a pretender network.
Feb 5, 2018   |  Reply
John Patrick
Mark, what is wrong with you?
Feb 5, 2018
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