3.9

The Private Lives of Pippa Lee

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The Private Lives of Pippa Lee
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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.