Artificial intelligence has always been a popular film subject, but it seems especially popular in recent years with great movies like Ex Machina and Her, and not-so-great movies like Morgan and Chappie. AI is becoming much more a part of our lives and its potential is becoming much more clear to the general population. So I had high hopes for Marjorie Prime based on nothing more than the knowledge that it was an arthouse movie that had something to do with AI, but sadly it wasn’t what I had hoped it would be.
The film initially focuses on Marjorie (Lois Smith), whose memory is failing in her waning years. Her daughter Tess (Geena Davis) and son-in-law Jon (Tim Robbins) have gotten Marjorie a holographic, artificially intelligent representation of her late husband to keep her company, to keep her sharp, and to keep her in line. Except it’s her husband as she remembers him: a young man (played by Jon Hamm), rather than the aged version that she buried.
It’s hard to say much more about the film’s plot without potentially giving things away, but there’s really not much to give away because there’s really not much plot at all. It’s a character-driven movie that’s heavy on dialogue and light on science fiction and artificial intelligence. It could’ve easily been made without any sci-fi at all with only minor tweaks to the story, and that’s not what I wanted or expected.
It turns out that the film is actually based on a play, which is very obvious from watching because it’s comprised of very simple set pieces with lots of dialogue and no action. Actually, it’s no energy of any kind, because lines are rarely delivered in anything above a whisper and with any degree of enthusiasm. And it’s full of repetition and scenes that feel more like padding than something purposeful and meaningful. All of this increases as the movie progresses so that by the end I felt like I was getting virtually nothing from it.
I do think that director Michael Almereyda (who did a modern-day version of Hamlet starring Ethan Hawke that I absolutely love and that’s nothing like Marjorie Prime) got exactly the film and performances that he wanted, so the film isn’t a failure in that regard. Maybe if you go in wanting and expecting a very slow, quiet, and low-key drama, then it’ll be right up your alley. But I just couldn’t get into it.