The Private Lives of Pippa Lee

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
The Private Lives of Pippa Lee Movie Poster Image
Satisfying, mature drama is too intense for kids.
  • R
  • 2009
  • 97 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 14+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Though confirming that being a wife and mother is rewarding, the film also says that it's important to recognize your own worth and needs. But many characters appear to do the opposite, serving only their own desires and treading on others.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Pippa is a devoted wife and mother, but she seems unable to reconnect with her true self or even integrate it into her present life. She flits from one man to another, seeking solace and safety but neglects her own needs. Other characters seem inordinately selfish; one is honest to the point of rudeness. Men and women are unfaithful to their partners and seem to constantly be looking toward passion to fill some hole in themselves. Many of the male characters objectify women.

Violence

A woman battles loudly with her unstable, drug-addled mother. A woman places a gun in her mouth in a public act of self-destruction.

Sex

A teenager poses for bondage photos; later, she goes on a promiscuous streak, which ends when she takes up with a much older married man. They're shown lounging on a couch, after sex, with her completely naked (though no breasts or genitals are visible) lying atop him (he's dressed). A man is caught with his wife's friend; though the audience doesn’t see anything, it’s implied. A married woman makes out with a neighbor.

Language

Everything from “a--hole” to “f--k up.”

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Drinking during social occasions -- primarily dinner parties. A teenager is shown imbibing at a different event. A mother pops Dexedrine all day to stay slim and get through her day; later, her daughter takes a bunch of pills to shock her mom into quitting.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that although this indie drama features Gossip Girl star Blake Lively, it’s not age-appropriate for tweens and younger teens. The subject matter gets pretty intense -- the movie explores everything from drug addiction to neglectful parenting to infidelity and suicide -- and could easily overwhelm younger viewers (assuming they're even interested). There’s some swearing (including "f--k") and scenes of characters tripping on various substances. Sexuality includes a teen posing for bondage photos and having sex with an older, married man (though nothing graphic is shown on screen).

User Reviews

Parent of a 17 year old Written byaysion69 March 14, 2010
great movie
Teen, 15 years old Written byTheSuperman765 April 16, 2011

i rate this title IFFY for ages 14+

What to watch out for * Messages: Though confirming that being a wife and mother is rewarding, the film also says that it's important to r... Continue reading

What's the story?

Adapted from a novel by Rebecca Miller, who also directs, THE PRIVATE LIVES OF PIPPA LEE finds the titular Pippa (Robin Wright Penn) -- an upstanding wife and mother -- reluctantly moving with her much older husband, Herb (Alan Arkin), to a retirement community, where her only peer is the angry son (Keanu Reeves) of a neighbor. It’s a switch that unsettles everyone, from their grown children to Herb (a publishing giant displaced from the thrum of Manhattan) to Pippa herself. Proper on the outside, Pippa is still an ingénue yearning to break free on the inside.

Is it any good?

Wright Penn’s face registers even the slightest of emotions, a gift that not too many actresses have. How wonderful to see her in action again in this poetic though somewhat diffuse drama. Despite her uncommon beauty, Wright Penn makes Pippa relatable -- she's a woman who has lost touch with her essential self and is confronted by a changing landscape that forces her to readjust to survive. Who was she, and who is she now? How did she get to where she is? And does she like it there?

Miller extracts considerable depth in all of her actors. (Except perhaps Winona Ryder, who shows glimpses of her old talent but borders on overdone.) It’s good to see Arkin in a role other than jolly, quirky grandfather, and Reeves is refreshingly subtle and mature. The film feels somewhat crowded, but there are plenty of times when viewers get Wright Penn -- as well as stretches of a surprisingly complex performance from Blake Lively as a younger Pippa -- and what a joy that is.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about why Pippa estranged herself from her family, especially her mother. What was the impact of her mother’s addiction? What are the other real-life consequences of addiction?

  • What did Pippa find comforting (if anything) in her husband? What about parenting and being a housewife appealed to her? Does her awakening seem realistic? Understandable?

  • Do you consider any of the movie's characters to be positive role models? Why or why not?

Movie details

For kids who love drama

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