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USA 2018
Directed by
Tamara Jenkins
123 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

Private Life

Writer-director Tamara Jenkins  first film since The Savages in 2007 is a wryly amusing, candid yet graciously disarming story of middle-aged bohemian Lower East Side New Yorkers, Richard (Paul Giamatti) and Rachel (Kathryn Hahn), who are trying to have a baby after many years of failed attempts. They live in a cramped rent-controlled apartment with two large dogs. He’s a once-respected theatre director who now runs a pickle business.  She is a published writer completing a book. They’re exhausted emotionally and financially. When their step-niece Sadie (Kayli Carter), a 25-year-old college student  comes to stay with them and is willing to donate an egg to them they decide to try IVF.

Private Life Is a comedy about marital infertility but not one that plays overtly for laughs as did Raising Arizona (1987) and Juno (2007) but is rather a heartfelt look at the realities, physical, psychogical and social for infertile couples and especially the would-be mother.

Jenkins’ delightful script is brought to life by a strong ensemble cast with John Carroll Lynch and Molly Shannon rounding out the narrative as Sadie’s parents. Although perhaps Giamatti is a little too old for the role (55 playing 47) his typical quietly desperate screen persona is a perfect match for the role of Richard whilst Hahn is equally good as Rachel as she struggles with the conflicting values of biologic determinism and the feminist credo of her younger years. The two actors work superbly together whilst Carter is an engaging presence as Sadie, smart, lively and slightly goofy who admires Richard and Rachel’s artistic commitment and aspires to the same. Carter is photogenic in an indie film way but Jenkins does her no favours with the scene in which she is recumbent in a hospital bed.

Insightful and intelligent, truthful and charming Private Life will be a treat for mature-aged audiences. 




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