Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

I hate to get sidetracked before I even start this little article but Cornell West was in this movie ‘The Private Lives of Pippa Lee’. Albeit briefly, but he was in this movie. He even had a line. I know Cornell West… in a way… sort of. I was at some speech that he was giving, and I was given the task of videotaping him and I made sure I introduced myself to him, letting him know that he is a good friend of my Uncle Dr. Gerald Horne. Yeah, he looked like he was little irritated, but he referred to my uncle as one of the great thinkers of the 21st century and then more or less, in a polite Cornell West kind of way, told me to get out of his face. We’re like totally best friends. Anyway…

Robin Wright Penn is Pippa Lee, a vibrant vivacious smart women married to the completely ancient retired book publisher Herb Lee (Alan Arkin). So old is Herb that he and Pippa have moved into a retirement home, considering Herb’s penchant for heart attacks, a place where the considerably younger Pippa doesn’t really belong. This isn’t to say that Pippa is completely healthy herself as she has some mental issues she is attempting to deal with such as her penchant towards sleep walking, sleep eating or sleep driving. But why is the lovely, talented, loyal and dedicated Pippa Lee losing her grip on reality? It’s her moms fault silly.

Pippa guides us on a journey into her past where we meet her amphetamine addicted mother Suky (Maria Bello) and the effect that watching her mom self destruct would have on a young Pippa (Blake Lively). Young Pippa would leave home, have a few adventures, drift around aimlessly for a while until she would meet a still ancient Herb who would deliver to her the life she now lives. Note: Putting curly hair on Alan Arkin’s head does NOT make him look younger.

Back and forth we go between young Pippa and mature Pippa, with mature Pippa dealing with her adult children, particularly her daughter who hates her for some reason, a neurotic friend played by Wynona Wyder who Pippa believes is having an affair behind her boyfriend’s back (Mike Binder) and eventually she will make the acquaintance of a disturbed young man named Chris (Keanu Reeves) who seems to intrigue her for some reason, though Pippa would never betray her husband. Unless, you know, something happened… know what I’m saying?

Hmmm… I not too sure what to say about this one. I can tell you what I saw and what I observed, that being the movie was very well acted, had a fantastic cast, was very pretty to look at and was interesting in an odd sort of way, but not in a way that made for a good time watching a movie. At least not for me. This movie was directed by Rebecca Miller, who wrote the screenplay which she adapted from a novel that she wrote. So Ms. Miller is pretty much the power broker in this film and I think it is safe to assume that we saw as close to an artists vision for a movie, in this movie, that is humanly possible. My issue, or more accurately my question would be what, if anything, am I supposed to feel or get out of these characters that she has created? I enjoyed watching Robin Wright Penn work and I particularly liked the way that young Pippa and mature Pippa were linked together so that they seemed to be a singular character, which is not easy to do, but I didn’t have any feelings for either character. I just sat there and watched them do what they did. Seriously, Pippa could’ve died in a plane crash or something and I’d been like ‘oh… that’s too bad’ and then walked on out of the theater and had some lunch.

As a movie, as far as I could tell… because I’m certainly not the be all that ends all when it comes to this kind of thing, ‘The Private Lives of Pippa Lee’ was a film that didn’t possess a beginning, middle or end. Not really. We as an audience are dropped in the middle of the situation, blind, learn a few things about a few people along the way, watch some people some people do some stuff, and then at the end Pippa will continue with her life. She doesn’t actually die in a plane crash or anything, I was just supposing.

The good thing in relation to this movie is that some of the things these people do are funny and amusing, some of it is shocking, some of it abhorrent and some of it is nonsense. None of it, however, seems it possess any real thematic purpose. Perhaps that is the purpose. Meet Pippa Lee, see how she’s gotten to this point in her life, say goodbye to Pippa Lee and wish her well.

I don’t know. Because of the somewhat unique way of presenting this story it has left me with no real feeling or emotional tide towards this comedy / drama / tragedy. I didn’t dislike this movie and wasn’t bored by this movie but I could’ve missed this movie and not been too upset about it, and I have no desire to ever see this movie again. Hmmm….

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