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The Private Lives of Pippa Lee

Film Four Stars
I must admit to being a little biased towards this film when I first heard about it, after all it leads with the gorgeous Robin Wright Penn backed by Maria Bello, Monica Bellucci and another surprising return for Wynona Ryder, and while watching it I have to admit to being not only captivated by Robin Wright Penn, but also totally convinced and drawn into her character, and that goes for Maria Bello as well.

The female performances in this film are excellent, and they lead the way with the actors barely able to keep up, but this film is about Pippa and Robin Wright Penn's amazing ability to tell a story and emotion through the simplest of movements or pauses. She does take control of the film, and rightly so.

Plot.pngThePrivateLivesofPippaLee.jpgPippa Lee, played by Robin Wright Penn, is the perfect wife, adored by her husband and their friends. The perfect host, a wonderful, loving and accepting wife, and an always giving friend. However there's more to Pippa Lee than that, and what she's hidden for so long is starting to peek out the cracks as her perfect life and marriage begin to struggle.

When her husband Herb, played by Alan Arkin, decides to move them both to a retirement village she begins to struggle, and ever so slightly you see the cracks begin to appear, and as life goes on these cracks become larger and we begin to get glimpses of her past, and it's through the past and the changes in her present life, that we really understand who the real Pippa Lee is and what made her.

TheFilm.pngThe story is told in two time lines, first with Pippa Lee beginning to look back and visit her past, and following her life forward from the moment that she does begin to look back.

It plays out with the help of Pippa Lee's voice over and some very clever and memorable transitions from her current life to her past, bringing the audience with her. While the voice over did grate at one point and at another feels a little false, for the most part it works well, and helps you to become drawn to the character.

The story and dialogue are very good, and there are a number of memorable lines from the film, it definitely makes me want to see it again and try and capture more of those lines, and that's a great sign for a film.

The reveals and developments are wonderfully handled, and there was a point where I started wondering where the story was going with Pippa and felt myself starting to wander just a little bit, it was right then that a simple dramatic turn moved the story on and I was back with the film again.

There are some moments of laughter and amusement such as hearing Robin Wright Penn describe a rather rude act in a very offhand manner, some hugely poignant moments like the speech that she gives about love coming and going and marriage working through will, and some very emotionally touching moments too.

I've seen some people saying that they didn't see a strong plot in the film, well I connected well with the lead character and found the story of her life rather engaging and really became attached to her story.

Just as an aside, if anyone can tell me why that animated sequence suddenly appears I'd love to know, it really feels out of place with the rest of the film, and while I understand what it's saying, I don't really understand why it's there. However, that was a small blip.

I've said it already and I'll say it again, Robin Wright Penn gives a fantastic performance. She delivers so much with just a faint half smile at the right moment, the inclination of her voice giving away a little too much, or a brush off of a negative comment or action towards her as she continues talking and moving things along.

She's utterly convincing in the role and captured the screen whenever she was on it, she also revealed some strong comic timing which delivered a few laugh out loud moments.

She isn't the only strong lead in this film though, there's Maria Bello, another favourite actress of mine, who gives an emotional and hectic performance as Pippa Lee's mother.

Monica Bellucci appears all too briefly, but commands a strong moment in the film, a pivotal moment, and Julianne Moore (born the same day and ten years earlier to me) smoulders the screen with her dangerous and charged character.

Blake Lively plays the younger Pippa Lee very well with Winona Ryder taking a short, but powerful role, to round off a wonderfully strong female cast. It's not something you see often these days, a powerful, genuine and well written group of female characters, and you get just that in Pippa Lee.

That's not to say the males aren't good. Alan Arkin delivers a good performance but the real surprise amongst the actors is undoubtedly that of Keanu Reeves. Oh believe me, he's not broody and mean looking through this film for nothing, he shows emotion well and seems like a real person, something that is often lacking from his emotionless performances.

Overall.pngI'd thoroughly recommend The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, it's a wonderfully told story with some superb dialogue and an excellent cast. Robin Wright Penn steals the show and really does make you wonder why she isn't given more leads, and she's so ably backed by a strong cast of mainly strong females.

It's a story that delivers some surprises, powerful and emotional moments, and a few laughs at the same time. Enjoyable right to the end it leaves you with a positive feeling, although at the same time does give rise to a little questioning of your own.

Rebecca Miller has not only written a great book, but she's also adapted the screenplay superbly and directed the film. I'd recommend this film without a second thought.

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Filmstalker at the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2009
UK IMDB Film Details



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