I’ve always been a bit oblivious to Robin Wright Penn. I know she’s Sean Penn’s wife, and I vaguely remembered her from Forrest Gump. I was aware that The Private Lives of Pippa Lee was essentially a film about her and I was interested at the purported presence of Winona Ryder and especially Julianne Moore. Thus, I ventured to see it.
I suppose The Private Lives of Pippa Lee could be termed as an Indie film. Pippa Lee is a fifty year old woman with twins in their twenties. It's written and directed by Rebecca Miller who adapted the story from a novel she wrote. Pippa is married to a man thirty years old senior and currently living in a posh retirement home that her husband – an editor – can well afford. Essentially, she’s the perfect wife. The film chronicles Pippa’s past as she comes to deal with the growing distance between her and her husband. I’m sure I’m not the only one who remembers a few years ago when Evening was advertised as the film with a collection of some of the world’s best actresses together. That flopped, but I suppose we can look to Nine for a collection to beautiful and talented women. But on this note, The Private Lives of Pippa Lee should not be underestimated. Robin Wright Penn, Maria Bello, Winona Ryder, Julianne Moore, Monica Belucci, Shirley Knight, Blake Lively. Perhaps they’re not as glamorous as Nicole Kidman and Penelope Cruz nor as revered as Meryl Streep and Vanessa Redgrave; however each of these women; some working with five minutes, some working with fifty minutes; gives a great performance.
It seems that as far as critics are concerned The Private Lives of Pippa Lee is not an unbridled success. It’s yet to open in the US, but reviews if positive are never grossly so. And I suppose it’s not a perfect film, not by any means. Miller sometimes falters when she has scenes that don't move the plot forward. But the film is utterly charming. Of the aforementioned women I could not help but be most impressed with Winona Ryder. It’s not that she’s best in show – she isn’t. I don’t know if others will share my sentiment, but in a small role Ryder is bathetic and sympathetic all at once. But all the other women are great. Maria Bello’s psychotic mother is a great treasure, and Julianne Moore [who incidentally shot her scenes in two days] is a nice treat. All this is grounded by the performance of Wright Penn. She must play the good guy to all these atrocities; as must Blake Lively who plays her younger incarnation. I’ve never been impressed with Lively – but here she shines. With a maturity I’ve never noticed before she does a fine job.
It’s a women’s picture but no one can put Alan Alda in a corner; and as Pippa’s husband he’s a treat. And Keanu Reeves [whom I loathe] didn’t destroy the film. Not one bit. The entire ensemble contribute to making a perfectly enjoyable little film. In a perfect world I suppose someone from the cast should be in contention for some awards – but I’m not even going to go there. Still, this is a nice film. I know it won’t be a huge success, but I sincerely hope it makes a profit. Imperfect, but no less enjoyable for its faults, Pippa Lee is a treat.