Nov. 27 (limited)
Alan Arkin, Robin Wright Penn, Winona Ryder, Keanu Reeves, Maria Bello, Blake Lively
Screen Media Films/98 mins.
In The Private Lives of Pippa Lee,
Rebecca Miller adapts her own novel of the same name in order to tell
the overly melodramatic story of its title character’s life.
As she’s grown older, Lee and her husband have slowly been breaking
down but in order to understand Lee’s current situation, we have to
start at the very beginning of her life and learn about what it’s
taken to end up in a loveless marriage with a much older man.
At least, that’s what Lee tells us in one of many, many voice-over
moments since the movie goes deep into Lee’s first-person point of
view and comes out
well, probably a fair amount worse because of
This bifurcated plotline is an attempt
to contrast the dullness of Lee’s current bourgeois existence with
what she used to be. Lee’s husband fell in love with her because
she was such a free spirit, running away from home at a young age to
live with her lesbian aunt, then becoming embroiled in a light S&M
pornography ring and eventually bottoming out as a sometime dancer,
full-time drug addict. It’s a somewhat fascinating tale, even
if it suffers from the Forrest Gump-like tendency to reduce life
to no more than a series of highs and lows. It’s not a new story,
but it’s relatively well-told and frequently engaging despite some
wooden characters and no surprises in sight.
But the movie’s schizophrenic form
does more than just thematically link with Lee’s (and her mother’s)
mental issues, it also emphasizes how very dull not just her current
life is, but also the story of what’s happening in it. It’s
a lot of sitting around tables and arguing in a way that’s sadly reminiscent
of a Lifetime made-for-TV movie than a meaningful feature. Miller
is no Ingmar Bergman or Woody Allen, and her attempts to turn Lee’s
story into high drama fall extremely flat. This isn’t helped
by a number of two-dimensional characters and some frequently dire acting—and
not all of it is from Keanu Reeves.
Pippa Lee’s prestige-y attempts
at greater meaning end up killing the movie, keeping it from having
too much fun or pulling out more depth from its characters. At one and a half hours long the movie still feels either horribly incomplete, due
to missing emotional development, or extremely lengthy, due to how little
there is to jump an audience away from what it already assumes. In either case, the only person left surprised as the credits roll and Lee rides off into
the sunset with the man of her dreams is Lee
herself. The rest of us could’ve left halfway through and told
you that’s exactly how the film would end.
Watch The Private Lives of Pippa Lee trailer: