‘Marjorie Prime’ Trailer: Jon Hamm Plays Lois Smith’s Hologram Husband In Sundance Standout

The new emotional and unsettling trailer for FilmRise’s Marjorie Prime evokes some Black Mirror vibes and has drawn comparisons to Spike Jonze’s Her. Even so, the film based on the acclaimed Jordan Harrison play stands on its own as it has received high marks when it bowed earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival.


'Marjorie Prime' Acquired By FilmRise, With Awards-Season Push Planned For Lois Smith

The story follows the titular 86-year-old Marjorie (Lois Smith) as she spends her final, ailing days with a computerized version of her deceased husband (Jon Hamm). With the intent to recount their life together, Marjorie’s “Prime” relies on the information from her and her kin to develop a more complex understanding of his history. As their interactions deepen, the family begins to develop ever diverging recounts of their lives, drawn into the chance to reconstruct the often painful past.

Adapted and directed by Michael Almaryeda, the film won the Sloan Feature Film Prize at Sundance.  Along with Hamm and Smith, the film stars Geena Davis and Tim Robbins.  critics have been raving about their performances. FilmRise is set to push all the main actors with a targeted award-season campaign. Uri Singer of Passage Pictures serves as producer.

Marjorie Prime is set to open in New York and Los Angeles on August 18 with a national rollout to follow.

Review: Marjorie Prime


Review: Marjorie Prime

(Michael Almereyda, USA, FilmRise, Opens August 18)

In Marjorie Prime Jon Hamm plays a hologram, which may seem like odd casting of an actor with such fleshly presence. Still, when not buffed to the gills and poured into a Mad Men power suit, Hamm looks scaled down to affably human; even the granite jaw aims to please. The Prime’s agreeable nature will become relevant, if only because the movie, adapted by director Michael Almereyda from Jordan Harrison’s Pulitzer-nominated stage play, is in part an inquiry into the evolving connection between us humans and the technology we’ve created. Hamm represents a mostly obedient piece of software named Walter, who’s been programmed to boost the flagging memory of Marjorie (the incomparable Lois Smith, reprising her stage role), an elderly widow in need of comfort as she struggles through early dementia. Walter is such a good replica of Marjorie’s husband in his youth that we wouldn’t know he’s transparent were it not for a puckish moment when someone walks through his foot.


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Blink and you might miss this and other lo-fi special effects. Always inventive with form and ideas, Almereyda is rarely experimental just for the hell of it: his 2000 Hamlet had the Great Dane deliver “To be or not to be” under a “Go Home Happy” sign at a Blockbuster Video store—and in context it was no cliché. The minimal CGI in Marjorie Prime subtly abets the philosophical dressing on a moving, if psychologically familiar, family drama with a tech twist. The flashbacks that fill us in on Marjorie’s painfully checkered family history are deployed with a light touch. Almereyda opens up the play’s one-room set into a beachside house sleekly furnished in the beige and brown and stained wood you’d expect from well-heeled Hamptons WASPs.

Skeletons march out of cupboards on cue, but this isn’t Edward Albee territory: these are posh people who conduct their fights in a genteel whisper. The backstory to their current sufferings is sensitively rendered, if standard fare. We hear of inattentive parenting, sibling rivalry, depression, and a tragic death with a long reach into the present and future. Scripted for resentment and eternal hunger for affection, Marjorie’s daughter Tess (a finely tuned Geena Davis) sees rivals everywhere, is estranged from her own daughter, and resents the Prime who’s standing in for her withholding father. Her solicitous husband Jon (Tim Robbins) positions himself as the family mediator, yet seems to enjoy himself a touch too much topping up the Prime he created with new data to enhance—and possibly edit—Marjorie’s memory bank.


This may seem like glum material, but Marjorie Prime is refreshingly free of the rote doom and gloom that clings to many movies addressing the Great Tech Takeover. Jon is no more sinister than the quiescent Walter, he of the oft-repeated recorded response to new information, “I’ll remember that now.” Yet this house is stacked with unreliable narrators (though Walter and Marjorie both display a subversive kick), all of them floundering in a slippery time frame that is skillfully rendered by Almereyda as fluid and without boundaries.

Does it matter that all memory is by neuro-scientific definition faulty or interpretive? How will the increasingly fuzzy line between human and digital memory change the way we relate to one another and live on in others’ memories? Whether someday soon we will all need (or get regardless) our own Primes is just one of the questions this likable but slightly anodyne movie raises yet doesn’t really run with. That may be a weakness in the play, and Almereyda, expertly juggling the tonal shifts between mordant and elegiac, keeps the faith. Those who admire the work of this bold innovator may be disappointed that he has muffled his own voice in the process.

Ella Taylor writes about film for NPR.org, The Criterion Collection, and others. She teaches in the School of Cinema at the University of Southern California.


most anticipated 2017 movies

Marjorie Prime

The first half of 2017 was great for movies — but the second half of 2017 is poised to be a stunner.

There’s something for everyone coming up: hotly anticipated franchise entries (Star Wars: The Last JediJustice LeagueThor: Ragnarok, War for the Planet of the Apes); sequels both long-awaited (Blade Runner: 2049) and spiritual (The Only Living Boy in New YorkCloverfield Movie); romantic comedies (Home Again); musicals (The Greatest Showman); and a fresh Pixar movie (Coco).

There are new arrivals from a murderer’s row of great directors, including Paul Thomas Anderson, Kathryn Bigelow, Christopher Nolan, Darren Aronofsky, Steven Soderbergh, Steven Spielberg, Martin McDonagh, and many more. Intriguing thrillers, important documentaries, satire, and historical drama dot the schedule.

And some of the year’s most buzzed-about festival films — like Call Me by Your NameMudbound, and The Florida Project — are scheduled to arrive in theaters just in time for awards season.

Here are 50 movies you won’t want to miss between now and the end of the year, arranged by month and release date.

Get ready: It’s going to be a great second half of the year at the multiplex.

Marjorie Prime -

Release date: August 18

Why it matters: There was a hologram of Jon Hamm (along with actual Jon Hamm) walking around the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year to promote Marjorie Prime, a sci-fi movie based on Jordan Harrison’s Pulitzer-nominated play about love and loss. In addition to Hamm, it stars the great Geena Davis.

How being a player led Jon Hamm to ‘Marjorie Prime’

As the world wonders if Jon Hamm is getting to first base with Jenny Slate, we can report that he hit a home run with the director of his upcoming movie, “Marjorie Prime.”

It took a ballfield to bring the actor and filmmaker together.

“I liked his work (and) I knew someone he played softball with,” writer and director Michael Almereyda told the Daily News before a screening of the film on Thursday at Brooklyn Academy of Music.

“That’s a very helpful thing,” added Almereyda, who based his gentle sci-fi drama on a play by Jordan Harrison. “It was recreational softball.”

Jon Hamm plays a virtual companion for Lois Smith in "Marjorie Prime."


In the movie about the impact of technology on humanity, Hamm plays a virtual companion of 86-year-old Marjorie, who’s played by the great Lois Smith. Geena Davis plays Smith’s daughter Tess, and Tim Robbins is Tess’ husband.

The director acknowledged that landing two Oscar winners, along with Smith and Hamm, who’s getting terrific reviews from “Baby Driver,” is a coup for the indie film.

“It’s very hard to get to actors for a low-budget project,” said Almereyda. “There’s not a lot of incentive for agents to get their attention.”

Even harder to find ones who’ll help with the financial business of making a movie. Hamm and Robbins are both credited as executive producers of the film coming out on Aug. 18.

Smith’s estimable career spans six decades and such films as “Five Easy Pieces” and plays as “The Trip to Bountiful.”

What did Hamm bring to the role of Marjorie’s computerized companion? “Himself,” said Smith. “That’s all any of us can do.”


Cannes Talk: Producer Uri Singer of Passage Pictures

Producer Uri Singer launched Passage Pictures in 2016, taking its drama ‘Marjorie Prime,” starring Jon Hamm and Lois Smith,  to Sundance earlier this year. That film was picked up by FilmRise, which is planning an awards push for Smith. Also in its slate: “I am Rose Fatou,” written by Ted Melfi (“Hidden Figures”), “Tesla,” which teams Singer up again with writer/director Michael Almereyda, and “Rich,” based on the book “King of Oil: The Secret Lives of Marc Rich,” about the infamous billionaire oil trader who died in 2013.


What’s different about Passage Pictures?

I decided I had to sit through movies and watch them and I decided they had to be important to bring to the screen — passion projects that can have a bigger audience, and important stories. Like “Experimenter,” and movies like “Marjorie Prime,” “White Noise,” and Nikola Tesla biopic “Tesla.” That’s a challenge I embrace.



How do you navigate the difficult specialty market?

The market for the arthouse movies is very complicated. It’s very hard to make them so that the larger audience will embrace them. What I am trying to do is have a balance and do bigger movies that can be more commercial.

What kind of material are you attracted to? 

Some kind of a niche — strong characters especially, and most of the times, material about a real, fascinating personality, like Marc Rich, or Nikola Tesla. Strong personalities. Tesla was not in the end a successful person but brilliant; to me, Marc Rich is a fascinating story that had everything. But Rich couldn’t get the most important thing. Stanley Milgram (the real-life social psychologist played by Peter Sarsgaard in the film “Experimenter”) was also a strong character.

How do you attract a high-profile cast?

It is a challenge to attract cast. Actors can be very picky now. So sometimes you go the route where the director attracts the talent. Or the actors are not attracted to a payday but to the content. With “White Noise,” we are finished the script and going out to our wish list of talent. Once you have the cast and the material and the IP and everyone is reading it, you can compete with the big studios.

Surviving the economics of the indie film biz — what’s your secret?

Very challenging. It’s challenging like the Wild West. Producers have a very hard time — it’s getting harder and harder. Producers have to source material, option it, etc.

You have to really believe in what you are doing and if you have a project of quality, doors open. The material has to be unique — a true story, socially relevant. [We are producing] a Brazilian movie about immigrants from their POV, something that’s timley and important.

What’s your favorite place to eat in Cannes?

Bobo is a brassiere there with fantastic food. The last time I was there, Rena Ronson and James Schamus were at a table near me and the waiter started to sing and dance. They couldn’t hear and the waiter wouldn’t stop, and they left, and the waiter just danced and sang. They were not nice and couldn’t care less but it’s just great food. I also love Le Maschou, in Old Town.

Jessica Alba, Kurtwood Smith Others Join Cast Of ‘El Camino Christmas

EXCLUSIVE: Jessica AlbaKurtwood SmithMichelle Mylett, and Emilio Rivera have joined the cast of the dark comedy El Camino Christmas from Netflix, Hidden Figures‘ filmmaker Ted Melfi and director Dave Talbert. They join Tim Allen, Vincent D’Onofrio, Luke Grimes, Dax Shepard, Kimberly Quinn and Jimmy O. Yang in the ensemble.



'Hidden Figures' Filmmaker Ted Melfi Lines Up Strong Ensemble Cast For 'El Camino Christmas' At Netflix


The project, scripted by Melfi and writer Chris Wehner, is about a young man (Grimes) who seeks out a father he has never met and, through no fault of his own, ends up barricaded in a liquor store with five other people on Christmas Eve. The story takes place in the fictitious town of El Camino, NV.


Alba will play reporter Beth Flowers, Smith will play the Sheriff and Mylett is in a lead role of Kate in the film that is already in production.

El Camino Christmas is being produced by Melfi and Quinn through their Goldenlight Films and also through Melfi’s Brother production banners. Rich Carter, Lyn and Dave Talbert, Uri Singer and Jack Murray are the executive producers. Brother is Melfi and Carter’s commercial production house which is making its first foray into feature production with this film.



Alba (Mechanic: Resurrection) is repped by CAA and 3Arts; Smith (Agent Carter, That ‘70s Show), by Progressive Artists Agency and Pop Art Management; Mylett (Letterkenny) is repped by LINK and Parent Managment while Rivera (Sons of Anarchy) is repped by AEFH.

'The Big Sick,' 'Marjorie Prime,' Kristen Stewart's Short Heading to Sundance London

The 14-feature-strong lineup for the festival's U.K. summer spin-off has been revealed.

The program for the 2017 edition of Sundance Film Festival: London, the Utah festival's British spin-off, has been announced. 

Fourteen feature films have been selected from the offerings at Park City in January, including the Judd Apatow-produced comedy The Big Sick, Jon Hamm-starrer Marjorie Prime, Brooklyn-based actioner Bushwick and environmental documentary Chasing Coral, which won the U.S. doc audience award. Also in the lineup are 15 shorts, including Come Swim, written and directed by Kristen Stewart. The festival will close with David Lowery's A Ghost Story, starring Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara. Lowery will also take part in one of the festival's Q&As. 

“As we head into our fifth festival in London, we remain committed to introducing new American independent films to audiences around the world," said Sundance founder Robert Redford. "Our success in the U.K. is a reflection of the enormous creativity of independent artists and the stories they tell, as well as the curious and adventurous audiences who have made us feel right at home in the heart of London.”

As had previously been announced, Sundance: London will open with Beatriz at Dinner, with star Salma Hayek set to introduce the film. 

The festival will run June 1-4 at London's Picturehouse Central cinema.