The Private Lives of Pippa Lee
Review by Cassam Looch
BOASTING a great cast giving some superb performances, The Private Lives of Pippa Lee is a well-crafted and interesting slice of American life which might not be the most original film out there but still deserves your attention.
Rebecca Miller (directing from her own novel and screenplay) tells the story of Pippa Lee who has reached a crossroads in her life.
The devoted wife to a much older man (Alan Arkin), we follow the reflections of Robin Wright Penn’s character telling us how her explosive relationship with her own unstable mother has left her unable to connect with her own daughter.
The younger Pippa Lee (Blake Lively) runs away from home and never looks back, spiralling instead into a life of sex and drugs… until she meets the calming influence of her future husband.
In the meantime, a similar pattern of behaviour is developing with the older Pippa who is drawn to a younger man herself (Keanu Reeves) as the family begins to fall apart.
Wright Penn gives a career best performance as Pippa, but she is ably supported by her younger self (so to speak). Blake Lively, who previously would have had the reputation of being an ‘it’ girl with little serious acting behind her (Gossip Girl duly noted) is a revelation.
She captures the spirited if damaged youthfulness of her character while making her slow attraction to a much older man believable.
It’s a shame that the filmmakers opted to stick a wig on Arkin rather than cast a younger actor for the first encounter between Pippa and Herb (the husband) but in a way it also makes sense. It might not ‘look’ right but it does give a sense of everything remaining the same and repeating itself around the central character whilst she changes continually.
Reeves’ cold and distant drifter actually makes for a perfect foil to the reawakened Pippa and he gives a likeable and honest portrayal which hopefully won’t get dismissed as another poor performance before people see the film.
He gives the film a sense of energy that’s matched by Winona Ryder’s best friend character, who is coolly dispatched by Penn later in the film as the film effortlessly flips from comedy to drama and back again.
It’s not the fault of the characters or even performers that the film fails to hit all the right marks. The direction is also well maintained as the film hurtles along at a great pace and has a thankfully respectable running time.
It would have been easy to adopt a ponderous and overly introspective tone, but Miller seems to have chosen prime cuts from her earlier work and delivered a decent emotional body blow.
It does, however, feel like a predictable and slightly unoriginal journey… so, while you never quite know where it will end, you always know where it’s headed.
It’s an odd time for this to be released as well as it seems ripe for the awards season and not the height of summer – so here’s hoping that Wright Penn and Lively get a look in at the very least.
Running time: 93mins
UK DVD Release: November 2, 2009