A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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).
- Parents say
- Kids say
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?
- In theaters: November 27, 2009
- On DVD or streaming: March 2, 2010
- Cast: Alan Arkin, Maria Bello, Robin Wright
- Director: Rebecca Miller
- Studio: Screen Media Films
- Genre: Drama
- Run time: 97 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: sexual content, brief nudity, some drug material and language
- Last updated: March 14, 2020
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