Saturday, 11 July 2009

REVIEW: The private lives of Pippa Lee

Robin Wright Penn emerges from wherever she was to star in this quite affable female mid-life crisis movie directed by Daniel Day Lewis' wife Rebecca Miller. It's certainly interesting, and although I've seen this kind of thing before it has always been from a male perspective, so in that sense it is refreshing. It also put some cast together, with Keanu Reeves, Alan Arkin, Maria Bello, Julianne Moore, Winona Ryder and even Gossip Girl's Blake Lively all supporting Penn in smaller roles. The plot sees Lee at the tail end of a marriage to much older man Herb (Alan Arkin), who is quickly approaching death's door. Trapped waiting for him to die, Pippa recalls the childhood that brought her here and dallies with a relationship with introvert neighbor Chris (Keanu Reeves).

The film is impressively scripted, by Miller in a an adaptation of her own novel. It somewhat staggers at the beginning, with Miller struggling to find her tone, but it gets into its groove early enough and thanks to some great performances entirely overcomes the early jitters. Penn will get the most praise for this, and she is great playing the desperation in a very subtle and gradual way. Its an intelligent performance to its core. But she is matched by Arkin every step of the way. Arkin who has certainly enjoyed a career resurrection post winning his Oscar for little miss sunshine, entirely nails yet another character performance. His character is perhaps the most difficult of the piece too, but he comes through with flying colors. Keanu Reeves steps to the indie scene rarely, but when he does he has a surprisingly impressive strike-rate. This isn't quite as fun as his scene stealing zen dentist in Thumbsucker a few years back, but he does a good job here, not flashy to be sure but does OK with a superfluous character. Amongst the A list Cameos, the strongest were Moore and Ryder. The former does a neat little character bit as what can best be described as a lesbian high culture pornographer. Ryder gets some credibility for making me laugh, although her role isn't much she does well with it, and all non-Arkin laughs were scored by Ryder.

It deals with feminine mid-life crisis and the life of a Fuck-up who is facing up to putting in the ground the person who essentially saved her soul. A clever, heartfelt little movie that crucially avoids the schmaltz panic button and comes through dignity intact.

Rating: 8/10

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