Marjorie Prime

In the future, grief will be obsolete. If you are missing your partner of 50 years, all you’ll have to do is invest in a good hologram, tell it some personal stories, and all of a sudden you’ll have a spouse 2.0 sitting on your plastic-encased sofa, reminiscing about all the good times you shared. Is it a little creepy? Depends who you ask. Certainly when elderly Marjorie (Lois Smith) chooses to see her departed husband Walter as the handsome, middle-aged man she first met (Jon Hamm), her daughter Tess (Geena Davis) thinks it’s a little weird. Tess doesn’t want anything to do with her hologram Daddy but Marjorie is quite enamoured with him.

screen-shot-2016-09-12-at-7-29-47-pmThe film makes you think about memory, and what that means, and how it is shared, and if it is real. And it makes you think about humanity and what makes us truly ourselves, and if we can separate ourselves from memory, or if indeed that’s all we are is our memories. And it makes you think about love: can it be recreated, does it live on after death, does it exist independently outside a couple, is it found in the details or does it truly live in our hearts? So if you’re in the mood for a talky, thinky piece with very little action, Marjorie Prime may just be the film for you. Based on a play, most of the film takes place within just one room. But within that room, the acting is superb. Lois Smith is a phenom. Jon Hamm, Geena Davis, and Tim Robbins orbit around her, fueling her sun.

The movie feels haunting and intriguing, and maybe it isn’t fair to say this, but it raises such interesting ethics that I almost wanted more from it, more cud to chew on. At times the film feels a little redundant: you have to feed the hologram in order to make it more believable, more “real.” But no matter how many perspectives you feed it, it will always be missing its own. These “primes” strikes me as an excellent opportunity for Sean to finally construct a Jay he’s always dreamed of: one that doesn’t talk back, who doesn’t know sarcasm, who doesn’t remember the time he told a naughty story about her in front of his mother. But the thing is, if Sean invested in this Jay Prime because he missed her, what good would she be if she didn’t roll her eyes at him?

Even with its faults, I enjoyed Marjorie Prime, for the watching and the thinking it inspired afterward. Watch it, and tell us what you think: would you be comforted by a hologram of your mother or your spouse or even your dead dog?

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15 thoughts on “Marjorie Prime

  1. Carrie Rubin

    What an intriguing concept. It’s similar to a Black Mirror episode where a woman is able to resurrect her husband as a lifelike computerized replica. Not sure I could ever go for such a thing myself. Just seems too creepy.

    Wonderfully written review, as always. I love your little extras, like the bit about Sean getting a hologram of you. 😄

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  2. Lorna Cunningham-Rushton

    enchanted, as always. I sometimes feel like I have a hologram of my mother; I can clearly hear her voice sometimes, and once I felt she had just entered my bedroom, looked up and saw the full-sized image for a fleeting second.

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  3. J.

    Very intriguing… sounds like it’d spark the kind of conversations that a few episodes of Black Mirror did around these parts. Similar premise – a shadow of a loved one and the existence in a cloud. I dare say this kinda thing is close… fascinating.

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  4. Isey

    I also immediately thought of the Black Mirror episode which went to all sorts of weird places in looking at the longer term of that relationship. Less so, Joi in Blade Runner, but this is a recurrent theme!

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  5. Katrina Morrison

    Fascinating but too creepy for my real life. Memories are with us always…seeing a hologram of it only makes it more difficult to move forward. It is sad to think that some people are so lonely that this may be all they have… this film is worth a see: it is intriguing. Thanks Jay for finding these gems😊

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  6. Liz A.

    It’s an interesting idea. But my firm belief is such a thing would only be a similacrum of a person. There would be something missing, and one would feel that.

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  7. kevinashton

    I really like your writing style, your reviews have substance and are insightful as well as entertaining. Your mention of “plastic-encased sofa” took me back to my childhood and thoughts of Aunt Rose who was so house proud she encased her sofa cushions in plastic zip covers. If you went to the kitchen to make a drink, when you came she had tidied and fluffed up the cushions.

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  8. Brittani

    This sounds an awful lot like that Black Mirror episode Be Right Back (as a few other people pointed out) but I really liked that one, so I’d probably like this too. I’ll definitely keep a look out for it.

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  9. Sean

    Lots of Black Mirror comparisons and I think it’s fitting. This is slow and thoughtful sci-fi but like you, Jay, I could have used more to chew on!

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