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Pippa Lee feels dislocated when she and her husband Herb move from Manhattan to a retirement community. He's older than she, they have two children who are young adults, and the daughter hardly speaks to Pippa. Pippa tells us about her life, in long flashbacks, starting with her birth to a mom who was a social dynamo and addicted to pills. As a teen, Pippa moves out and lives a hippie life until meeting Herb, who was then married to a young siren. Pippa discloses tragedies and discoveries. In the present, she's sleepwalking at night and talking from time to time with a burned-out case, the 35-year-old son of a neighbor. Can Pippa connect? Written by
Vehicle for Alan Arkin and eye candy for film students
I attended the North American Premiere of "The Private Lives of Pippa Lee" at the 2009 Toronto International Film Festival. Written and directed by Rebecca Miller from her own book, this is the complex, multi-layered life story of a woman trying to survive her checkered past. Its stellar cast makes this film a joy -- Robin Wright Penn is extraordinary as the titular character, while Keanu Reeves, Blake Lively, and Winona Ryder truly shine in supporting roles. But "The Private Lives of Pippa Lee" is, most of all, a vehicle for the legendary Alan Arkin as Pippa's husband Herb Lee. He's at his best yet.
The script is about 5/50 drama and comedy so it's hard to pin it down either way. But that's what real life is, isn't it? The art and costume direction are superb with great care taken to ensure that each of Pippa Lee's "lives" has its own unique color palette and sets to match. Keeping it all together is a wonderful recurring musical theme and sweet score. There are a number of clever transitions between sets and time periods which were not done with computers but "in-camera." As an aficionado of the craft of film-making, these set tricks blew me away.
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