PRIVATE LIVES OF PIPPA LEE, THE
From all outward appearances, Pippa Lee (Robin Wright Penn) leads a charmed existence. An anchor of feminine serenity, she is the devoted wife of an accomplished publisher (Alan Arkin) thirty years her senior, the proud mother of two grown children (Ryan McDonald, Zoe Kazan) and trusted friend to all who cross her path. But as Pippa dutifully follows her husband to a new life in a staid Connecticut retirement community, the persona she has built over the course of her marriage is put to the ultimate test.
Review by Louise Keller:
The Private Lives of Pippa Lee plays a bit like a road movie whose destinations are emotional pit stops. It is hard to pigeon-hole this thoroughly enjoyable and engaging film that has so many different elements, it touches almost every genre. Adapted from her novel, Rebecca Miller knows exactly what she wants as she directs her own screenplay with panache and disarming ease. It's a drama about relationships, a comedy of errors, a tragedy of sorts, a love story, a mystery tale, a crime story, a coming of age story and a tale about mothers and daughters. It's also the platform for an electric performance by Robin Wright Penn who dazzles in the title role as she intrigues, charms and gets our support from the outset.
When we first meet Robin Wright Penn's elegant Pippa Lee in her new Connecticut home, serving butterflied lamb to friends and family, we think we know exactly the kind of woman she is. Mike Binder's long time friend Sam suggests otherwise when he says 'She is a mystery; an enigma.' As she adds flames from a torch of perfection to her crème brûlée, Pippa reveals she has had enough of being an enigma. Is her reality showing cracks? We then slowly learn her back story, as the film darts in and out of flashback, reliving vulnerable ages and key moments of the young Pippa's life. (Blake Lively, who plays Pippa as a young adult freefalling precariously, is especially good).
It is as a young, aimless adult that Pippa meets Alan Arkin's already married Herb, who sees sweetness in her. I have always been a fan of Arkin and he is at his best as the complex, ageing husband ('If I'm good for anything in the world, it's to let you know how wonderful you are'). It's a simply wonderful cast. Maria Bello is a scene stealer as Pippa's pill-addicted mother with her own little stash of sin; Keanu Reeves, excellent as the 'half baked' tattooed neighbour who can't lie; Julianne Moore, wild as Aunt Trish's lesbian lover who photographs S&M; Mike Binder as dependable Sam, Winona Ryder as Sam's neurotic wife Sandra and Monica Bellucci's glamorous, drama-queen heiress Gigi who has her own ideas about divorce. (The lavish lunch Gigi organises before promising a divorce - involving a pig, a cow and a gun - is unforgettable.) Zoe Kazan's hot-headed Grace also makes an impact as Daddy's Girl who has no time for her mother - probably because she doesn't realise she is just like her. (The family dinner restaurant scene perfectly encapsulates the relationships.)
Can the camera lie, or is it there a sleepwalker in the house? What other curious things can evolve from a seemingly ordinary everyday? We are moved when we least expect it as all the strands of Pippa's present life come together, surprise us indiscriminately and take us in new directions. Love comes and goes like a breeze, Pippa says. Miller's film is a bit like a breeze - a wonderfully fresh one that lifts our spirits and allows us to believe anything is possible.
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PRIVATE LIVES OF PIPPA LEE, THE (M)
CAST: Robin Wright Penn, Alan Arkin, Maria Bello, Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder, Mike Binder, Ryan McDonald, Cornelius West, Arnie Burton, Monica Bellucci, Zoe Kazan, Julianne Moore
PRODUCER: Brad Pitt, Lemore Syvan
DIRECTOR: Rebecca Miller
SCRIPT: Rebecca Miller (novel by Rebecca Miller)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Declan Quinn
EDITOR: Sabine Hoffmann
MUSIC: Michael Rohatyn
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Michael Shaw
RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Icon
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: October 22, 2009