The Private Lives of Pippa Lee

Starring Robin Wright Penn, Maria Bello, Alan Arkin, Keanu Reeves and Julianne Moore. Directed by Rebecca Miller.
Rated M (mature themes, coarse language, sexual references, drug references and nudity). 98 mins
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Rebecca Miller has written and directed some small films, three short stories in Personal Histories and a drama starring her husband, Daniel Day Lewis, The Ballad of Jack and Rose.  This film is, again, a small-scale story but it has a top cast beyond expectations.

This is the life of Pippa, born Pippa Sossokian.  It is also a star vehicle for Robin Wright Penn as the adult Pippa.  She gives a fine, dignified performance in the present.  Blake Lively is her young adult self.  This is a woman who grew up in a large family with a church minister father and a hysterical mother (Maria Bello) who was on prescription drugs, who idolised her daughter but whose addiction and possessiveness drove her daughter away.

The film opens with the adult Pippa, married for 25 years to her older husband (Alan Arkin), a respected publisher who has had three heart attacks and has been forced to retire.  Pippa, a gracious hostess, is finding the isolated life in a retirement village hard to deal with and experiences some depression and strange sleepwalking behaviour.  She has a lawyer son and a photographer daughter (in Iraq) who ignores her mother.

After Pippa had run away from home to live with an unconventional aunt and her partner, she mixes with the wrong crown, drugs and promiscuity, until she is rescued by the publisher.

Some final developments are unexpected as is a friendship with a neighbour's son, Chris (Keanu Reeves) (who wanted to be a Jesuit at 17 and now has a Jesus-image tatooed on his torso, which offers a bizarre Christ-figure/Jesus-figure in a sexual scene)

The cast builds up the film beyond its small stature.  Winona Ryder plays a friend, Monica Bellucci is the publisher's former wife, Julianne Moore is the aunt's companion and Shirley Knight is the neighbour.  Robin Wright Penn is immensely watchable and gives the film its power.  Many older women will find it easy to identify with her.

Icon  Out October 26

Fr Peter Malone MSC directs the film desk of SIGNIS: the World Association of Catholic Communicators, and is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.


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