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The Private Lives of Pippa Lee
ĎLivesí Half Fulfilled
by Martin Malloy on Dec 11, 2009
Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.
A meditative and character driven film, The Private Lives of Pippa Lee succeeds in showcasing a strong cast, but the characters the actors portray only go skin deep. Robin Wright Penn is fantastic as Pippa Lee and Rebecca Miller crafts a nice film that, unfortunately, never quite pulls itself together. What could have been a great film is instead merely good.
Directed and written by Rebecca Miller (The Ballad of Jack and Rose) and based on her own novel, The Private Lives of Pippa Lee tells the story of Pippa Leeís reflection on her life as she quietly suffers a nervous breakdown.
Married to a much older man, Herb (Alan Arkin), Pippy Lee and her husband recently relocated to a retirement community after he suffers three heart attacks. As Herb winds down and prepares for the inevitable, Pippa finds herself a generation out of touch with her neighbors, and, like many retirees, she also looks back on her life. Foreseeing the end of a chapter, she attempts to understand how she got here and who she is. Itís not that she regrets her decisions; she just wants to understand their meaning.
A seemingly content and quiet housewife, Pippa is bubbling with anxiety ó a subtle detail Robin Wright Penn nails from the first frame. Despite loving her husband and her life, she appears uneasy in her role as caretaker, especially once they realize Herb may be becoming senile. As the two reconcile their new lives, we learn that Pippa was born to a priest and grew up in a household ruled by her motherís mood swings. Despite a close, loving relationship with her mother (played by the fantastic Maria Bello), as she ages she recognizes her motherís mental illness and addiction to pills.
Soon Pippa finds out that sheís the one sleepwalking. Her slow and silent breakdown begins to mirror her past and she fears she is becoming her mother ó something her whole life has been set up to avoid. Spending her time worrying about Herb, despite his protests, she has barely any time to care for herself. That is until she finds an unlikely companion in a neighborís adult son Chris (Keanu Reeves), who also finds himself in flux following a divorce. The two form an unlikely bond and Pippa finds a friend outside of her daily monotony.
The film hangs squarely on Robin Wright Pennís shoulders and she pulls out an outstanding performance as a woman struggling to reconcile her past and present selves. Alan Arkin and Keanu Reeves are also cast perfectly as the men who surround her and struggle with their own places in life.
Ultimately this is a film about life, illuminating the different paths we take and our place on its timeline. If only the filmís great performances could carry the film, it would be a wonderful character piece. However, despite these great performances that the characters never feel fully rounded. Miller never fully merges the young Pippa (Blake Lively) with the present one in a satisfying way, and her supporting characters only work in relation to Pippa, never feeling full in their own right. Itís worth a viewing for Robin Wright Pennís performance, but it ends without ever feeling whole.
by Martin Malloy on Dec 11, 2009