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Michael Almereyda Conjures a New Reality in MARJORIE PRIME

August 18, 2017 | By

Based on Jordan Harrison’s play, Michael Almereyda’s Marjorie Prime was filmed in and around a house on Long Island, New York’s southern fork in an astounding 13 days. Concerning a near future where holographic representations of deceased family members are manifested to pacify loved ones, Marjorie Prime centers around four main characters played by Lois Smith, Jon Hamm, Geena Davis and Tim Robbins. “They have memories that we get to watch,” said Almereyda of characters who are both actual and virtual, the latter of which are referred to as “primes.”

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Almereyda, who wrote and directed the film, called his screenplay, “a respectful adaptation. The characters, dialogue, and structure come from the play. I added, subtracted, enhanced things. The writing yields its own logic.”

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To make the play cinematic, Michael Almereyda set the film in beach house near Montauk, New York. “The presence of the ocean becomes important,” Almereyda said.

At the outset of the film, we watch as Smith converses with Hamm, becoming clear that Hamm is a reflection of Smith’s husband from some unknown past incarnation. “It didn’t take much to define the character the way he did,” Almereyda humbly stated of Hamm. “We found it together in a way that was natural and pretty efficient. In the play, it wasn’t possible for Lois Smith to walk through him. It became more unmistakable [in the film} that he’s a hologram. The insubstantial nature of the primes was not in the text.”

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Because, in the world of this measured, visionary film, one can return as a holographic imaging of a past person, three characters have a double role; Tim Robbins is the only one without double role, at least onscreen. In the director’s eye, his actors took on their parts in the film since they could play with that duality. “The holograms are good at imitating human behavior,” explained Almereyda. “A subtle sense of wonderment that they are learning.”marjorie_prime_tim_robbins

In executing the scenes over his 13 shooting days, Almereyda noted that the process was fluid given that his four principals were markedly experienced actors. “They know how to rise to the occasion,” said Almereyda. “They are like gifted athletes—they know how to turn on a dime. They were heroic and very capable.”

FilmRise releases Marjorie Prime in select cities, including Los Angeles, on August 18.

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