THE PRIVATE LIVES OF PIPPA LEE is a movie that is utterly, wretchedly disappointing. Despite an all-star cast, and handsome production values, the resulting film is uneven in tone, superficial where it wants to be profound, and undeserving of the big emotional punches it tries to pull.
The film was written and directed by Rebecca Miller(THE BALLAD OF JACK AND ROSE), based on her own play. It features the eponymous Pippa Lee (Robin Wright Penn) as a middle-aged woman, questioning her life choices through a series of flashbacks. Despite her picture perfect middle-aged existence, we learn that, as a young girl, Pippa was damaged by her exposure to her mother's addiction to speed and resulting psychological problems. The young Pippa (Blake Lively) thus high-tails it to New York where she almost falls into become a soft-porn model for her aunt's girlfriend (Julianne Moore) out of sheer boredom, develops a drug habit of her own, but then is rescued by an older man (Alan Arkin.) Fast forward to her present day crisis, and Pippa is living with her aged husband in a retirement community. She is insulted by his affair with a damaged even younger woman (Winona Ryder) and so trips into an affair of her own with an equally damaged young man (Keanu Reeves).
As I said, this is a well-cast film, and handsomely photographed. I have no doubt that Miller is trying to earnestly explore middle-aged feminine angst and to say something profound about self-esteem and addiction. The problem is that none of it seems real. It all seems like a very stage-y very contrived set of scenes, clumsily shuffled into a movie. At times it almost seems like a caricature of one of those Woody Allen films, except without the wry humour, where old men seem to be able to attract ever younger more attractive women and everyone spends the whole time discussing their neuroses and committing suicide.
THE PRIVATE LIVES OF PIPPA LEE was released last autumn and is available on DVD and on iTunes.