out of Five
Running time: 98
Enjoyable, emotionally engaging drama with a strong script and terrific performances from Robin Wright Penn and a note-perfect ensemble cast.
What's it all about?
Adapted by writer-director Rebecca Miller from her best-selling novel, The Private Lives of Pippa Lee stars Robin Wright Penn as Pippa, a devoted wife and mother who undergoes a ‘quiet nervous breakdown’ when she moves to a retirement home with her much older husband, ex-publisher Herb (Alan Arkin). Ignored by her daughter (Zoe Kazan) and seeking to redefine herself as something other than a trophy wife or mother, Pippa undergoes a journey of self-discovery, during which she strikes up a friendship with Chris (Keanu Reeves), the dope-smoking, slacker adult son of her neighbour (Shirley Knight).
Meanwhile, Pippa flashes back to her teenage years (now played by Gossip Girl's Blake Lively) and examines her relationship with her mercurial, pill-popping mother (Maria Bello), her wild-child punk days (including a brief stint as an S&M model for ‘aunt’ Julianne Moore) and the beginnings of her relationship with Herb, when he was still married to his glamorous and sexy first wife (Monica Bellucci).
Robin Wright Penn delivers her finest performance to date as Pippa, whose subdued personality undergoes a series of ever-so-subtle changes as she gradually takes control of her life; you can actually sense her character becoming happier, like a flower slowly blooming. There's also terrific support from a note-perfect supporting cast that includes Arkin (who has chemistry with both Penn and Lively), Reeves, Moore, Bello, a super-sultry Bellucci and, best of all, a jittery Winona Ryder as Pippa's best friend Sandra.
In addition, the casting of Blake Lively as the teenage Pippa works brilliantly well because they actually look alike, allowing Miller to pull off a bravura transition scene that's one of the highlights of the film.
Miller's script is laced with dark humour throughout and there are some nice offbeat moments, such as Pippa's sleepwalking scenes. Similarly, the themes of identity and happiness work very well in terms of connecting with the audience, and Miller presents them in a thoughtful and intriguing manner.
The Private Lives of Pippa Lee is a well written, wonderfully acted drama that's both a pleasurable and engaging experience. Highly recommended.
The Private Lives Of Pippa Lee (15)