Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Private Lives of Pippa Lee

Showing at the Toronto International Film Festival: The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, written and directed by Rebecca Miller

Synopsis from the TIFF website:

Does anyone really know Pippa Lee? Ostensibly a well-off model wife, mother and friend, Pippa wears each of her masks just a little loosely. Played to perfection by Robin Wright Penn, Pippa is a woman for our times. In this smart study of life at the top of the social food chain, writer-director Rebecca Miller adapts her own novel in a wrenching yet often hilarious look at one enigmatic woman.

Pippa (Wright Penn) and her publisher husband, Herb (Alan Arkin), have just moved to Connecticut following Herb's heart attack. Accustomed to the creative whirl of New York, Pippa adjusts slowly to her beige-toned suburban home and the slower pace of small-town life. Regular dinners with their friends Sam (Mike Bender) and Sandra (Winona Ryder) provide some reprieve, but it is not until their neighbours' recently divorced son Chris (Keanu Reeves) moves in next door that Pippa begins to rediscover facets of herself that have long been in hibernation. As she cares for an older husband who appears to be drifting farther and farther away, unsettling memories from her past swell up and threaten to smother her. Furthermore, strange incidents add to the growing tension in the home: someone has been sleepwalking, indulging in messy late-night snacks and taking the car out for nocturnal spins.

Pippa Lee is the story of a woman who has faced many challenges but is still trying to figure herself out. Taking us from Pippa's troubled years growing up in the fifties and sixties to her seemingly more peaceful life in the present day, Miller's narrative traverses both the highs of falling in love and the crises arising from drug abuse and family trauma. Blake Lively is at once coquettish and forlorn as the teenaged Pippa, more than holding her own among a cast of veterans, and Julianne Moore gives a standout performance as a sexy, no-nonsense photographer. But it is Wright Penn who adeptly carries the film, bringing Pippa to life with a nuanced range of emotions and a subtle yet irresistible comic presence.

Miller lends both a zany sense of humour and an incontestable talent for storytelling to this tale of an uncompromising free spirit. Though Pippa may already have survived her youth, we learn that coming of age is a process that never stops.

The movie's website is here.

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