Monday, December 14, 2009

The Private Lives of Pippa Lee

Looking Back

Similar to Evening, this film examines the life and times of Pippa Lee, played by Robin Wright Penn in her current, older age, happily married to Herb (Alan Arkin) and spending their twilight years in a retirement village, where everything seems perfect with friends and family, but with a series of events that threaten to tear at the fabric of their relationship, one fearful of dying, while the other discovering that her sleepwalking may prove to actually be the least of her worries.

I suppose when one's retire, one will look back and reflect on the life that has so far past by, assessing if it was a life well led, or if there's any last ditch attempt to rectify and address issues before the time is up. For about half the film, the narrative takes a walk down memory lane, and as we know how a woman's heart holds plenty of secrets, so does Pippa's, now played by Blake Lively, watching her lead a life that's aimless, and how she finally found an avenue of attachment to someone older, who provided her with that rudder in life.

The film also touches for the large part on the role of mothers, with Pippa's tumultuous relationship with her mother, a woman reliant on a cocktail of drugs to get through life, and presented an entire series of bewildering emotions and mood swings through which Pippa grew up under. Maria Bello aces this role as the mother, who one minute can be laughing out loud, and the next could be crying her heart out. You can imagine the kind of negative influence she has on the impressionable Pippa, who ultimately in desperation, does what her mother does, only to find herself wanting out, and from there spiraling her life out of control. In the current narrative, it shifts from Pippa's relationship with her own children, how they brought her peace, though still not without the reconciliation that she seeks with her daughter (Zoe Kazan).

Written and directed by Rebecca Miller, part of the draw here is the ensemble casting, from the leads in Alan Arkin (again given some of the best lines here, with hair too to boot), and the bit roles played by Julianne Moore, Monica Bellucci, Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves, a thirty-something ex-priest in the making now turned divorcee and working in a convenience store, with whom Pippa forms a strong, inexplicable bond with. While they may be bit roles, each play an important part in the formation of the Pippa character, especially Monica Bellucci as Herb's ex-wife, in a sequence that's quite shocking and unexpected, contributing to the key guilt factor that Pippa finds herself shouldering. Fans of Robin Wright Penn will undoubtedly applaud her turn in this dramatic role.

Then there's the mantra of how we think we know somebody, only for that someone to turn out to be not the person we thought they were. This proved to be a mold that's easily applied to each and every character here, where somewhat negative experiences transforms into one becoming jaded, or be filled with mistrust with people who we think are our friends, only to have betrayal stare right back in our faces.

The Private Lives of Pippa Lee turned out to be less than the chick flick I thought it would be, and was quite the powerful drama it was, although I felt that it had room to flesh out more of Pippa's past, which seem to be rather quickly glossed over since it's a steep decline into a drug infused lifestyle. Still it's a decent dramatic film, so while awaiting the loud action blockbusters to reach our shores later this week, you might just want to bask in the calmness of this film instead.

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