Sunday, October 24, 2010

Why are you telling me this?

Maybe it's because I'm not a middle-aged woman married to a very successful, much older man, but I cannot figure out why The Private Lives of Pippa Lee (2009) was financed and produced and what it wants to say to what audience. It feels like yet another entry in the mid-decade tax-shelter movie boom.

The writer director was Rebecca Miller, daughter of the great playwright Arthur Miller. Perhaps that is how one attracts actors of the calibre of Alan Arkin, Shirley Knight, Julianne Moore, Monica Belluci, Wynona Ryder, Keanu Reeves and Blake Lively to stand around gape-mouthed at how wonderful (or not-wonderful) Robin Wright Penn is. (It's clear why she took the project--she is the center of everything, which she rarely has been on film.)

Miller seems to have a talent for scene-making, but not storytelling. The style carries over some suspiciously theatrical techniques, such as putting past and present in the same moving frame, in the manner of Sjoberg's Miss Julie. Otherwise, I could not tell you what the film was about, what happened in it or what I was supposed to feel about that. The title character has a platonic relationship with Keanu Reeves, and Monica Belluci finds no reason to continue living, which might mean the film is science fiction or fantasy. On the other hand, Wynona Ryder is unstable and annoying, which might make it a documentary. And Julianne Moore is a lesbian again, which just means the film is just as unoriginal and unimaginative as you thought. (Ms. Moore should start saying ix-nay on the esbian-lay art-pays for a while. It's getting a bit self-congratulatory.) And the whole story suggests an unnatural reflection on what it would be like to be married to one's father. (Arkin's character is creepily similar to Arthur Miller.)

I know this blog is supposed to be reflective rather than summative. But what do you do when the film does not even dent the wrinkles of one's brain? The best I can offer here is public service -- skip this. There, I just gave you 98 minutes of your life back.

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