‘Private Life’ is Funny as it is Sad

Review of "Private Life"
Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti in "Private Life" (Netflix)

MOVIE REVIEW
We live in a new age when movies are shown in movie theaters and home theaters at the same time. It’s sort of a strange concept. Why go out and see a movie if you can just stream it home? It will be interesting to see how well the indie film, Private Life will do since it will premiere in 21 theaters (in UK, Toronto, Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, Boston, Denver, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC) while also making its debut on Netflix on Friday, October 5th. The comedy/drama from Tamara Jenkins tells a very honest (with a little too much TMI) story about an artistic couple, Richard and Rachel (Paul Giamatti and Kathryn Hahn) and the the trials and tribulations they face in hopes of starting a family. Both being “past their prime” age-wise, the pair struggle with something that many other couples do everyday: infertility. If that doesn’t sound like fun, you would be correct.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Giamatti and Hahn and they are both really good here. They’ll probably both be up for awards for this work too since the acting is to good, but this isn’t a fun story. Not really anyway. As Richard and Rachel go further into the rabbit hole of assisted reproduction and domestic adoption, the result leaves them with a great strain on their marriage. The infertility is emotionally and financially draining on the playwright and author couple. Meanwhile, college dropout Sadie (Kayli Carter), a relative of the couple, is wanting to stay with them for awhile instead of going back home to her parents Lynch and Cynthia (John Carroll and Molly Shannon). Suddenly, their lives feel a little more hopeful. Carter is excellent as the young, budding artist who is simultaneously disenchanted with college and idealistic about her future. She spars well her on-screen mother too.

Review of "Private Life"
Kayli Carter and Molly Shannon (Netflix)
Jenkins wrote the screenplay as well as directed the film. I don’t know how she came up with the title Private Life, since this couple’s lack of parentage becomes fairly public and the subject is brought up often during inappropriate times like parties, Thanksgiving dinner and the workplace. Some of these scenes are very funny while others are painful to watch. Not because of the acting or writing, but because you don’t want to feel how desperate this couple is to find meaning in their lives.

Giamatti does what he does best – responding to others. Throughout the film, Rachel will ask Richard a question and when he answers one way, she immediately takes it a whole different way altogether which then leads to Richard hemming and hawing trying to explain that is not what he meant. Wash, rinse and repeat. By the couple is able to have kids, you have to wonder if there will be any marriage left to make it worthwhile.

Private Life is more honest than it needs to be especially a few scenes at the fertility clinic. Rachel is particularly fond of the “F” word, some nudity is involved and some dialogue is just plain crass. The couple seem like really nice people, but I found myself wanting to know them before all of this when they were still a happy couple. If you prefer rom-coms (romantic comedies) over dep-coms (depressing comedies), then this film isn’t for you. While some couples who have dealt with these same issues in their lives might find the film cathartic, others will do better staying away as it may become too painful to watch. Trust your gut on this one.


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