The Private Lives of Pippa Lee is one of those small arty films starring an impressive roster of accomplished actors who probably took the gig for the love of the material rather than box-office glory. It’s a psychological drama tinged with wry humor and melancholy. So if you like that sort of stuff, you’ll probably like this film.

Robin Wright Penn plays Pippa Lee, a middle-aged woman who’s married to a much older man (Herb, played by Alan Arkin) who decides the couple should live out their remaining years together in a staid retirement community in Connecticut. The change of scenery leaves Pippa with way too much time to ponder who she is and how she got there. Through a series of flashbacks, we learn that Pippa has not always been the picture of elegance and respectability that she is today. Blake Lively plays the younger, wilder Pippa who broke free from a pill-popping mother and largely absent Christian minister father to make her own way in the world. Her life settles down when she meets and falls in love with Herb (Alan Arkin with a lot more makeup and hair), a successful New York publisher who takes Pippa under his wing and molds her into the seemingly content wife, mother, friend and neighbor that everyone has come to know and love.

The movie was written and directed by Rebecca Miller (daughter of playwright Arthur Miller and wife of British actor Daniel Day Lewis) who also wrote the novel it’s based on. If it’s true that you write what you know, then Ms. Miller may have had quite the interesting childhood. But I digress…

This movie is about relationships, expectations, appearances, and searching for (though not necessarily finding) one’s ‘true self’. It features strong supporting performances from an all-star cast that includes Maria Bello, Winona Ryder, Julianne Moore and Keanu Reeves. It all makes for a bittersweet chick flick that is less fun, but more intellectually stimulating than its bigger box-office cousin, It’s Complicated.

One thought on “The Private Lives of Pippa Lee”
  1. Just rented it and I agree with most of Mainstream Chick’s thoughts. Robin Wright Penn is amazing in this role and her cast mates all hold up their ends really well. Makes me wonder what Rebecca Miller will be up to next. I think she is a writer/director to watch.

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