Marjorie Prime (CIFF 2017)

Watching Marjorie Prime is like attending a friend’s birthday party and listening to your friend’s grandmother tell stories to people, and then having to sit and listen to her tell the same stories to different people several times over the course of the night. Sure, the stories might be good stories, but (1) they’ve happened to people you don’t really know or care about and (2) they grow progressively less interesting the more you have to hear about them.

Marjorie Prime envisions a world in which A.I. can mimic a person, dead or alive, as long as you tell it what the person was like and give it memories by telling it stories. As such, the film follows four people who, at various points in the story, either are using the A.I. or are being portrayed by the A.I. for somebody else. It almost exclusively consists of people sitting, remembering things, and telling stories. It wasn’t a shock to learn that it was based on a play.

The acting is what saves Marjorie Prime from being a wash. Tim Robbins, Lois Smith, Jon Hamm, and Geena Davis play the four main characters, and when you’ve got actors of this quality, you’re bound to have something that is, at the very least, watchable. It also wants to say something about memory and mortality, but most of that gets lost in the tedium. It’s a chamber film that’s more likely to put one to sleep than provide insight into anything of value.

Conclusion: Marjorie Prime is a dull watch that’s only saved from being worthless by its acting and with a bit of thematic depth.

Recommendation: If you like the actors, Marjorie Prime might be worth a VOD watch on a boring afternoon.

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