The Bye Bye Man
The Bye Bye Man is the kind of film that is so boring and bereft of anything of possible interest that it becomes infuriating.
"Flawed" is a word movie critics use more often than jewelers. They have looked into the heart of a sparkling gem and found an imperfection. Every movie should be perfect, and on such grounds, "Prime" is flawed. Its flaw is that it employs an Idiot Plot in a story that is too serious to support it. I can forgive and even embrace an Idiot Plot in its proper place (consider Astaire and Rogers in "Top Hat"). But when the characters have depth and their decisions have consequences, I grow restless when their misunderstandings could be ended by words that the screenplay refuses to allow them to utter.
"Prime" is such a movie, yet I must recommend it, because in its comedy of errors are actors who bring truth at least to their dialogue. Meryl Streep and Uma Thurman have line readings that work as delicate and precise adjustments of dangerous situations. They're dealing with issues that are real enough, even if they've been brought about by contrivance. And Streep has that ability to cut through the solemnity of a scene with a zinger that reveals how all human effort is, after all, comic at some level: How amusing, to think we can control fate!
The movie crosses two dependable story structures: (1) the romance between lovers widely separated in age, and (2) a mistaken identity that leads to complications. The trouble begins when Rafi Gardet (Uma Thurman) and David Bloomberg (Bryan Greenberg) fall in love. They know there is an age difference, but because they both lie a little, they don't realize how big it is: Rafi is 37 and David is 23.
Rafi discusses her concerns with her psychiatrist, Lisa Metzger (Meryl Streep), who argues tolerantly that if the relationship is otherwise sound and healthy, then age alone is not a reason to terminate it. In this matter Lisa is counseled by her own psychiatrist, Rita (Madhur Jaffrey). Now comes a spoiler warning for anyone who has not seen a commercial or trailer for the movie, where Universal eagerly reveals the plot secret. It is: David is Lisa's son. Since they have different last names and his age has been lied about, she has no reason to guess this. On one hand you have a hypothetical case of a man about 27 dating a woman about 34, and on the other you have the real case of a Jewish son of 23 dating a 37-year-old divorced Gentile. This disconnect creates some interesting moments for the Streep character, who is not narrow-minded, but whose feelings as a mother are not hypothetical, while her opinions as an analyst certainly are.