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Remembering The Prime Of Your Life

Remembering The Prime Of Your Life
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PHOTO: Film Rise

BY LORRAINE DUFFY MERKL

Your dead husband comes back as Jon Hamm? Well, hello.

Marjorie Prime Jordan Harrison’s Pulitzer-prize nominated play-cum-movie is set in Montauk, circa 2050 in the beautiful oceanside home of 86-year-old Marjorie (Lois Smith). FYI: This would make her 53 in present day.

In the early 80s, she married Walter (Hamm), and they had a daughter, Tess (Geena Davis), who is married to Jon (Tim Robbins). Marjorie has been widowed for 15 ears, meaning Walter passed in about 2035. Her memory is fading fast.

Because this is a very un-futuristic sci-fi film, the only thing “techie” about it is the product of an unseen service that creates holographic projections, aka Primes, designed to look like lost loved ones who keep alive reminiscences. Their personality software is constructed both from what the deceased has left behind and information provided by close friends and family.

Octogenarian Marjorie has chosen to have her digitally simulated husband as he was at a youthful and handsome 40. Look, she’s aged, not stupid. Marjorie also knows enough to cherry pick the information she wants Walter Prime to have. Tess apparently had an older brother who died. That’s a detail from Marjorie’s past that she’s not interested in having recalled.

Through Marjorie’s story, the movie presents the challenge: What would we remember, and what would we forget, if given the chance?

To this I’d like to add, why can’t we have that chance now? Why do we have to wait for some decades-away technology or the onset of senior moments? In fact, the philosophy already exists; I believe it’s called revisionist history.

When Walter Prime reminds Marjorie of a Julia Roberts popcorn movie they once watched, she asks that he reframe the recollection: “What if we went to see Casablanca instead?” You know, if it makes her happier to remember their evening was spent viewing a beloved classic rather than a silly rom-com, what’s the harm? The important thing is that she and her husband had gone to a film and had a good time.

In fact, when it comes to recalling the past, Tess tells Jon: When you remember something, you remember the last time you remembered it, so it’s always getting fuzzier, like a photocopy of a photocopy. Her point: your memories aren’t even accurate anyway. So, I say, why not bring them to mind, as Marjorie did, in a way that will make them more pleasant?

This technique could actually solve an issue I have of holding on to the past. Being told to ‘put it behind me’ and ‘forget about it’ never does the trick. So, I’m game to give a go at re-remembering. Now that I think about it, there are people I know who may be already implementing this practice.

There are the ones who talk about how great high school/college/every job they’ve ever had was? Really? Or are they just choosing to push out of the picture those who bullied, whined, or generally drained everyone else with their antics? Then there are the people who claim to never have a bad day, vacation, meeting, date; plus, when asked about their kids, why they’re always fabulous, too.

The odds are against every day of one’s life being 100 percent on point, so perhaps they’re all just choosing to recollect the good parts of bygone days. I think I’m going to stop rolling my eyes at this group as I mutter, Oh please, and join their ranks

From now on, I want to only conjure up colleagues who made showing up to work worth it; the thoughtful actions of old boyfriends; and the charm of tiny, pre-marriage apartments.  Perhaps if I must relive an argument I had with someone, I’ll pretend I actually said the zinger that I only thought to say hours later; or that I uttered the breakup words first; or that I quit the job from which I was laid off. To quote Maurice Chevalier in Gigi: Ah yes, I remember it well.

Maybe, if I ‘prime’ my past, the better I’ll feel in the future.

 

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Lorraine Duffy Merkl
Lorraine Duffy Merkl is the author of the novels BACK TO WORK SHE GOES and FAT CHICK, for which a movie version is in the works.