Private Life

Movie review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Private Life Movie Poster Image
Mature dramedy about infertility has lots of sex, cursing.
  • R
  • 2018
  • 123 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Long-term relationships like marriage take a lot of work, and sometimes go off in unexpected directions. Sticking out through the tough times requires open and honest communication, commitment, and support from friends and family.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Rachel and Richard are a committed couple struggling to keep their marriage and lives intact when they're unable to have a child. They generously take in their college-student niece when she starts to flounder, and they are willing to do whatever it takes to achieve their dream of parenthood. But some of what it takes is gaming the system, and many times they're (understandably) overwhelmed when each new phase in fertility treatment or adoption proceedings just throws another roadblock in the way. Niece Sadie wants to be a writer but isn't very academically driven. She generously offers to be an egg donor, both because she really wants to help her favorite aunt and uncle, but also because she doesn't really have much else to do at the moment.

Violence
Sex

In the context of providing a sperm sample, a man watches a porno movie. No sensitive body parts are shown but the man and woman are clearly fully nude; the man is seen thrusting behind the woman, who's bent over, while he holds her breasts, and sounds of grunting, moaning, and "dirty talk" are heard. A woman's bare buttocks are visible while she's cleaning house wearing only a shirt. A couple kiss in bed wearing pajamas or underwear. Several shots of women undergoing fertility treatment, from behind their heads and with their legs in stirrups; a speculum is seen once. Lots of frank talk about sex and reproduction mentioning cunnilingus, fellatio, "choking on c--k," and a woman takes out a vibrator as a prelude to sex. The short story "Innocence" by Harold Brodkey is discussed, which is sexually very explicit and easy to find online. A young woman's thong underwear is visible above drooping jeans and she apologizes for "whale tailing." A couple on a date kiss. "Dildo" mentioned.

Language

"F--k," "c--k," "whore," "s--t," "p---y," "a--hole," and "tw-t." The middle-finger gesture. 

Consumerism

Applebee's used as a meeting place.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults occasionally have wine or beer with meals, usually holidays or parties. Hormone injections for fertility treatment shown in the abdomen and buttocks. Some references to medications and one scene showing the many pills and vitamins Rachel takes for fertility treatments. Getting anesthesia for a medical procedure and taking a Valium before a medical procedure mentioned. A woman is hospitalized when she takes more of a fertility drug than she was prescribed.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Private Life is a mature dramedy about a couple's struggle to have a child. Expect many explicit references to sex, including a brief clip and sound effects from a porno movie. Adults talk frankly about lots of different aspects of sex, sexuality, and reproduction, including the technical terms for oral sex, "dirty talk" in the porno clip, and vulgar terms for body parts like "c--k," "p---y," and "tw-t." Other strong language includes "f--k," "s--t," and "ass." There's also drinking and lots of references to fertility drugs. Teens might be interested in the mature sexuality and an important character who's in college, but the story mainly focuses on the relationship between a married couple in their mid-40s. Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti co-star.

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What's the story?

PRIVATE LIFE focuses on Rachel (Kathryn Hahn) and Richard's (Paul Giamatti) struggles to have a child. Now in their mid-40s, the couple is quickly running out of time and options. When Sadie (Kayli Carter), their college-student niece, comes to stay with them in their Manhattan apartment, they decide to ask her if she'll donate some of her eggs for in-vitro fertilization. To Rachel and Richard's delight, Sadie agrees to help them out, and the three start a long, emotionally-fraught and sometimes physically-difficult process, with one of the biggest obstacles being how Sadie's family reacts to the news. Is Richard and Rachel's dream of parenthood about to come true at last?

Is it any good?

Somewhere in this uneven two-hour movie is a better, 90-minute one waiting to get out. Private Life has a strong cast and a compelling story, but director Tamara Jenkins spends too much time on people and places that don't move the story along or tell us what we need to know about the characters. At its heart are some genuine laughs, emotional tension, and drama, but it's diluted by too much in-between stuff that doesn't really help. And the ending doesn't really satisfy, as there's no emotional payoff, just a sense that things are going to continue on as they have been for a long time.

The mature, explicit sexual content and appealing young co-star may attract teen interest, but it's not for them. Not only because of the strong content but because the movie's main focus is on the struggles of a couple in their 40s who are trying to keep their relationship together while they're on an emotionally and physically exhausting journey to parenthood.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the sexual content in Private Life. How much is OK? Is it realistic, and does that matter?

  • What about the strong language? How much is too much? Is it realistic, and does that matter?

  • Why do you think Rachel and Richard want a child so badly? How much do you want kids someday? If you weren't able to, do you think you'd go through everything they do?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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