Review: Private Life

Paul Giamatti and Kathryn Hahn in Private Life

Writer and director Tamara Jenkins handed Paul Giamatti and Kathryn Hahn an intimate script in Private Life. The two of them took it and made it vital and alive enough to reach out and grab the audience for over 2 hours of fascinating human drama.

Richard and Rachel are in their 40s. They put off having kids to establish careers. Now they want a family. It isn’t working for them. They do numerous types of infertility treatments, they start the process to adopt, they secure donor eggs. They try every option.

We join them in the middle of this agonizing struggle. Private Life is full of moments of hope and moments of soul-numbing disappointment.

We meet Richard’s family. His brother Charlie (John Carroll Lynch) and sister-in-law Cynthia (Molly Shannon) have two daughters. Actually, they’re Charlie’s step daughters. They are Charlotte (Emily Robinson) and Sadie (Kayli Carter).

Kayli Carter in Private Life
Sadie loves her aunt and uncle.

Sadie becomes a third party to part of the infertility journey. She drops out of college and goes to live with Rachel and Richard in their tiny Manhattan apartment. She sleeps on an air mattress on the floor and watches as they struggle to create a family.

Denis O’Hare as Dr. Dordick is the other major character. (What a name for a fertility doctor! But then, I once had a gynocologist named Dr. Dickey. Go figure.)

The power of Private Life stems from the fact that this husband and wife are completely real. Every emotion is perfectly portrayed. Their fears, doubts, joys, sorrows – it’s all absolutely real and human. They aren’t perfect. They’re two nice people who love and understand each other. Their lives have narrowed, though. They’ve narrowed everything down to this one quest: to have a child.

The emotions from Cynthia and Sadie are equally well played. Without a lot of loud fanfare, we come to understand the people we meet in this film. It’s masterfully done.

To be honest, I hesitated to watch this film because of the infertility theme. But I’m glad I did. I figured anything with Kathryn Hahn in it would be good, and I was right.

Have you seen Private Life? What did you think of it?

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