Private Life (2018)
Directed by: Tamara Jenkins | 123 minutes | drama, comedy | Actors: Kathryn Hahn, Paul Giamatti, Kayli Carter, Molly Shannon, John Carroll Lynch, Gabrielle Reid, Amy Russ, Caroline Martin, Nick Sullivan, Hettienne Park, Denis O’Hare, Emily Robinson, Alyssa Cheatham, Leah Griffin
Life is not easy for people in their forties. Certainly not for the New York couple Richard and Rachel, main characters in the comedy drama ‘Private Life’. The couple may be successful – she as a writer, he as a stage director – but they were so busy that they didn’t hear the ticking of the biological clock. In their forties, in a marriage that is already not going well, they do everything they can to fulfill their wish to have children. Adoption, IVF, egg donation, nothing is too crazy. Until one day Sadie comes along, a student, aspiring writer and above all Richard’s step-niece.
What the arrival of Sadie will all bring about, we leave in the middle. ‘Private Life’ doesn’t have to rely on plot anyway. The film focuses more on the psychological fringes of the forties life, in which more and more doors are closing and there is still no prospect of a Zwitserleven life. In addition, the film wants to tell something about today’s world, the unprecedented possibilities of modern life, the unprecedented crises that these cause. Lonely girls posing as potential surrogate mothers online. Brochures with smiling faces about things that are not really funny. Of those things.
‘Private Life’ completes it all equally successfully. The bohemians-of-necessity of the New York artistic milieu, girls who have walked right out of ‘Girls’ (equally read and equally naive), the eerie atmosphere of commercial clinics, witty dialogues, and humor that is sometimes nice and flat and then again very subtle. With the added bonus that we, as viewers, always understand more than the characters themselves, often making us horrified by their decisions and actions. There is also plenty to enjoy visually, with many repetitive images and unexpectedly beautiful shots. And then we have star actors Paul Giamatti and Kathryn Hahn as the droopy couple, and co-stars Jonh Carroll Lynch and Molly Shannon in key supporting roles.
The only thing it lacks a bit is originality. ‘Private Life’ could have been a Noah Baumbach movie. The same milieu, the same humor, equally adept at imagining a fragile relationship, an equally important role for friends and family. That does not make this film worth less as an independent work of art. Because not only does the film resemble a Baumbach, it also possesses the quality of his films. Highly recommended, except for those in their forties with a desire to have children. They really can’t handle this.