The Private Lives of Pippa Lee a film of quiet Desperation

Apr 26, 2010 by Tom Jones

The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, is an American film drama written and directed by Rebecca Miller. The screenplay is based on her novel of the same title.

Its plot revolves around the main female lead Pippa Lee, as played by Robin Wright Penn, whose seemingly perfect life and exquisite beauty, were built on a tenuous foundation of her frenetic, difficult, and horrific family life. Her youth was subsequently filled with the counter-culture life of sex and drugs.

Fast forward, and her life in the present is the movie’s main theme–we begin the process of discovering who Pippa Lee really is, and how she’s able to come to terms with both the past and present. At the same time she’s dealing with the difficultly of her current family’s problems due to her husband’s ill health after three heart attacks.

Their lives are turned upside down, and that perhaps forces Pipi Lee to deal with the many issues that she abandoned when she married Arkin’s character, Herb Lee, who provided her an escape route for into a world of money, privilege, and quiet.

After a few quiet decades respite from her tumultuous youth and young adulthood, Robin Wright Penn’s portrayal of the complex character, Pippa Lee, is thrown into a series of psychodramas, after decades of being married to Alan Arkin’s character, Herb Lee, who is a successful book editor and publisher.

His illness and their subsequent move out of the city, forces Pippa into dealing with a myriad of issues which she subconsciously and unconsciously buried—which are unfortunately amateurishly juxtaposed and clumsily edited into back and forth vignettes of her present and past throughout the film.

Nonetheless what becomes increasingly clear about Pipi, is that she never really had a chance to develop her own life and personality–ending up living a life that others viewed through their own prisms.

It stars Robin Wright Penn as Pippa Lee, Alan Arkin as s Herb Lee, Keanu Reeves as Chris, Monica Bellucci as Gigi Lee , Julianne Moore as as Kat , Maria Bello as Suky Sarkissian , Blake Lively as the teenaged Pippa , and Winona Ryder as Sandra Dulles. Its senior produced is Brad Pitt.

Pipi’s long suffering under the auspices of her overbearing mother’s speed addiction, unpredictable mood swings, and erratic behavior, forced her to run away to stay with her understanding aunt.

But the moment of her saving grace is short lived. Although her mother’s sister, as played by Monica Bellucci, is a lesbian, her partner played by Julianne Moore, is a dominatrix, and the young Pipa Lee, quickly and perhaps without thinking, is a willing participant in her sexual antics and self documented sado-masochistic photographs and exploits.

To be expected, her stay there is short lived, as her aunt literally walks in on one of their photo shoots, and Pipa’s life is again uprooted and unstable.

Subsequently Wrights’ character, Lee, lives years under a cloud of drugs, sex, and free spirititness where she ultimately ends up in Los Angeles–with two boyfriends and no future.

During a party at a socialite’s house, she encounters her future husband, Alan Arkin’s character, Lee, who’s married to the same. Soon they start an affair, and when Arkin’s character announces that his socialite wife wants to end their marriage amicably–dinner and all with Pipi and Arkin’s, Lee–his socialite wife shoots herself in the head during dinner. Again, Pipi’s encounters massive instability.

She ultimately marries Herb, and she slowly but surely settles into a quiet life of learning how to take care of him, live quietly, and finally achieving her much sought after stability by having money without undue drama for decades, until Arkin’s character sells their NYC apartment to retire, and they subsequently move to suburbia in Connecticut, where they’re both bored and Herb keeps working anyway.

Despite the beauty of the cinematographer’s capture of the luscious colors of foreground and background, especially of Connecticut, the movie is long and tedious in its story, and attempts to bring the reader along the same road Pippa Lee is traveling to find out who she really is, too.

We also learn that Pipi is acting out her “quiet nervous breakdown,” by sleepwalking and roaming around the house and neighborhood, her daughter hates her, she meets the misunderstood and charismatic, Keanu Reeves, as Chris, and her husband is having an affair with one of their mutual friend and client writer’s wife, played by Wynona Ryder, as Sandra Dulles.

But she doesn’t’ know who she is, and that’s the saving grace of both Robin Wright’s brilliant portrayal of Pipa Lee, which draws the viewer into a a long denouement–as her husband is pulled from the machine keeping him alive after he’s suffered his 4th heart attack when Pipa walks in on him and Rider’s character, Sandra Dulles, having sex, when she calmly asks her husband for a divorce.

As time heals all wounds, her daughter is soon seeking rapprochement with her mom, and Pipi begins the long and winding road of finding herself as she begins a relationship with Keanu Reeves, character, Chris, who is probably as complicated as her.

Although the movie never delivers a knock out scene, the beginning, middle, and end of its plot unwinds without much drama, we come to learn that beauty is both skin deep, and what we see in others is often a reflection of what we want to see–and not what’s real.

And the beauty of The Private Lives of Pipa Lee, is that Wright’s, Lee, is given a last chance to find out who she really is, and that’s what makes the movie worth watching—particularly so, due to the set of scenes and circumstances that we encounter in the movie– that lead us everywhere and nowhere–without a solid reason, until the very end.

That’s when we discover that Wright’s character Lee, is the ultimate survivor and we finally realize that we probably see a lot of our own life in her new found destiny.

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Entertainment, Film, Los Angeles
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