Movie ReviewsPrivate Life – An Authentic Dramedy

Keith NoakesOctober 11, 2018

Who says all Netflix movies are bad?

Synopsis: PRIVATE LIFE is the bracingly funny and moving story of Richard and Rachel, a couple in the throes of infertility who try to maintain their marriage as they descend deeper and deeper into the insular world of assisted reproduction and domestic adoption. After the emotional and economic upheaval of in vitro fertilization, they’re at the end of their middle-aged rope, but when Sadie, a recent college drop out, re-enters their life, things begin to look up. (Netflix)

Starring: Paul Giamatti, Kathryn Hahn, and Kayli Carter

Writer: Tamara Jenkins

Director: Tamara Jenkins

Rating: R (United States)

Running Time: 124mins


If this new film from Netflix could be described in one word, it would be truthful. There is just something about truth that makes films more compelling to watch and this was definitely the case here. Private Life is about real people facing real problems and focused on a married couple named Richard (Giamatti) and Rachel (Hahn) who suffered from infertility. The film followed them through their many ups and downs on their quest to have a baby by any means necessary though the film could have gone deeper with this. Richard and Rachel’s journey would prove to test their marriage as it took both a financial and emotional toll on them. When it looked like all hope was lost, their free-spirited, step-niece named Sadie (Carter) came back into their lives.

We never learned all that much about Richard and Rachel’s lives since we only know them from the context of their current journey. They fought as most couples did though it was never clear why they wanted a baby in the first place. It would have been nice to know more about them more as they were only defined by their need to become pregnant. Through Sadie, we learned that she was very close with Richard and Rachel and saw them as her art parents, viewing them more favorably than her own parents, Charlie (John Carroll Lynch) and Cynthia (Molly Shannon). There was definitely more going on but the film never got overly deep with either of them despite the signs being there. To repay them for all they have done for her, Sadie agreed, much to her parents’ chagrin, to sell Richard and Rachel one of her eggs to implant within Rachel.

Richard, Rachel. and Sadie were so compelling to watch as the film served as a window into their lives. Just like life, it brought upon plenty of emotion but also a surprising amount of comedic moments to break up the bleakness thanks to some strong writing and sharp dialog. The interactions between the characters were real and endearing and the film made it easy to feel right along with its characters. Watching them simply live their lives was fun to watch but that could only work for so long. With a running time of just over 2 hours, the film is a little bit on the longer side. It could definitely have been trimmed by at least 15-20 minutes as the story occasionally got sidetracked with some sitcom-y and melodramatic subplots that the film could definitely have gone without.

The film ultimately would not have worked if not Giamatti and Hahn. Their excellent performances as Richard and Rachel respectively and their equally excellent chemistry made them a believable married couple (though the script definitely helped too). Giamatti was his usual excellent self, straddling the line between drama and humor with relative ease. Hahn delivers a tour de force performance in her best role yet while going through a surprising range of emotions but also approached them in a restrained and nuanced way. She arguably had the most to do here and excelled as Rachel had the most stakes between the two. Carter’s performance as Sadie will surely turn some heads as she certainly held her own against the likes of Giamatti and Hahn.

Overall, this was an excellent dramedy exuding authenticity thanks to a great script and direction as well as a pair of excellent performances from Paul Giamatti and a career best performance from Kathryn Hahn. It may be 15-20 minutes too long and it doesn’t go as deep as it should but it is definitely one of the better offerings on Netflix.

Score: 9/10

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