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Movie Review

The Private Lives of Pippa Lee

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The Private Lives of Pippa Lee
It's not that this film is dreadful; it's just dull. Pippa (Robin Wright) has been happily married for several decades to a man (Alan Arkin) 30 years her senior. She's had a charmed existence. However, when the couple moves into a retirement community, memories of her tormented past, largely suppressed over the years, surface, and she begins to unravel. At the same time, she strikes up a friendship with a neighbor's son (Keanu Reeves) who is much younger than she but as emotionally disenfranchised.

The film has several problems, the dreary subject matter and monotony heading the list. The pacing is slow, and though the movie is only 93 minutes, it seems much longer. The improbabilities don't help. Even if we accept the idea that the relocation elicits Pippa's buried demons—though it's never clear why—it seems she'd appreciate her current life and be more committed than ever to her marriage. Her relationship to her daughter (Zoe Kazan) makes no sense either. They've been estranged over a lifetime. The daughter loves her father but holds her mother in contempt. When Dad gets seriously ill, abruptly the daughter is contrite, has compassion for Mom, and expresses love for her. The transformation is totally unsupported. In all likelihood, she'd be blaming Mom for not taking care of Dad.

As is so often the case, the acting can't be faulted. The culprit is Rebecca Miller's script—based on her novel—and her sluggish directing. Wright is convincing as a woman in an emotional freefall while maintaining a decorous and superficial calm. Arkin is excellent as Pippa's high-octane husband, who is intelligent, warm and loving—and also a horrible betrayer. Reeves is fine too as a sensitive, alienated soul. He is especially effective in a scene with a dying dog. Kudos to Kazan, Mike Binder, and Ryan McDonald, who offer nice turns. But the picture's real find is "Gossip Girl" star Blake Lively as the young Pippa Lee, who manages to evoke depth of feeling beneath her blank, dim-witted stare. She's an actor who deserves many more film roles.


Genre: Drama
Written and directed by: Rebecca Miller
Starring: Robin Wright, Alan Arkin, Blake Lively, Keanu Reeves, Zoe Kazan

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