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The Private Lives Of Pippa Lee
3 out of 5 stars
Time Out says
3 out of 5 stars
Pippa Lee may appear the perfect dinner party hostess, but we know different. Fiftysomething spouse Robin Wright Penn has just moved with older husband Alan Arkin to a new house where they’ll spend his twilight years, yet somehow she’s not ready to fade away – not without living a little on her own terms first. Adapted from her own novel, Rebecca Miller’s film turns its heroine’s midlife crisis into a rites-of-passage tale. Thus, Pippa’s dinner party epiphany sparks a mental reaccounting of her formative youth, flashbacks unfolding as complications accumulate in the present: namely, a bizarre (and significant) sleep disorder, plus the troubling presence of an attractive, if damaged, neighbour (Keanu Reeves, most effective as a man sifting through the wreckage of his failings).
No challenge to surmise where all this is heading, but there are pleasures to be had while it takes the scenic route. With the story structure working backwards and forwards at the same time, the lack of tension is no surprise, nor does Miller help herself by flitting through a variety of moods, from period satire, whimsical imagining and character comedy to more sinewy drama. On a scene-by-scene basis, though, it’s classily effective, mainly because of Wright Penn’s skill in nailing the precise tenor of every moment. She’s a great actress, and a subtle one, too. Anyone who can wrestle scenes away from a lovably grouchy Alan Arkin must be on top of their game. Ingratiating, but just that bit foggy.