R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir-scr Ben Younger
with Uma Thurman, Meryl Streep, Bryan Greenberg, Jon Abrahams, Zak Orth, Annie Parisse, Madhur Jaffrey, Jerry Adler, Lotte Mandel, Naomi Aborn, John Rothman, Eboni Summer Cooper
release US 28.Oct.05,
UK 12.May.06
05/US Universal 1h45

Some things a mother shouldn't hear: Streep and Thurman

thurman streep greenberg

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Prime Writer-director Younger (The Boiler Room) uses comedy to grapple with some fairly serious themes here, although the film never really rises above comedic fluff, no matter how introspective or bittersweet it becomes.

Rafi (Thurman) is a 37-year-old divorcee who pours out her heart to her therapist Lisa (Streep) as she reluctantly begins to fall for David (Greenberg), who's 14 years younger than her. But that's only part of the problem: he's also Jewish--she's not--and through their increasingly detailed conversations, Lisa realises that Rafi's new man is actually her own son. So how can Lisa maintain a professional relationship with Rafi, while also protecting her baby?

Thankfully, Younger never overwrites the story's farcical elements, maintaining a gently comical tone, which lets the cast members inject moments of outrageous character-based hilarity that feel sharply realistic. We recognise ourselves in them, and can identify with their dilemmas. This low-key approach allows the well-observed humour to grab hold, even if it's never as funny as it should be. Frankly, there isn't much pace or energy to the story, and the crisp production style is a bit bland and occasionally cheesy.

But the cast carries it off with panache, making the most of Younger's astute dialog. Thurman is as gorgeous and luminous as she's ever been; she's our connection to the story, and she never lets us down (until Younger shifts the perspective jarringly in the final act). Greenberg is very good as the perfectly perfect mature, intelligent young hunk who's far too cute for his own good (why would anyone question a relationship with him?). And of course Streep walks off with the film, delivering a finely gauged performance that keeps Lisa from becoming a cliche either as a shrink or as a Jewish mother. She effortlessly balances the goofy comedy and more intriguing examinations of sex, ageism and religion.

For adults who can appreciate a smart comedy about Jewish and Catholic guilt, this film has some gut-bustingly hilarious sequences and a thoroughly enjoyable storyline that actually has the nerve to deal honestly with both sex and relationships. So it's a mild shame that the film is, ultimately, so forgettable.

cert 12 themes, language 5.Nov.05

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Prime Laurie T, Minneapolis: "this one had us rolling out of our seats in some scenes. Meryl Streep is hilarious. Yet it did make one see the obstacles involved in this type of relationship. We did enjoy the movie, however, my husband's comment was 'what a dumb way to end it'. I don't totally agree with that statement. I felt it ended nicely, and probably sensibly. But I don't always agree with being sensible, I guess." (7.Nov.05)
2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall