'Private Life', A Film On What To Expect, When You're Not Expecting
Netflix’s comedy-drama Private Life focuses on a creative Manhattan married couple both in their 40’s who are desperately trying to make a family. Written and directed by Tamara Jenkins (Slums of Beverly Hills, The Savages) who has a cinematic way of turning real life into film. That sounds like an oxymoron, but the actual reality is that the script stemmed from her own personal journey and struggles to have a child.
Richard (Paul Giamatti), a playwright and entrepreneur and Rachel (Kathryn Hahn) also a playwright who find themselves midlife, living in an atypical Manhattan apartment, spacious enough to have two dogs, yet something is missing and that is a baby. They find themselves at this stage in their lives all consumed with in vitro fertilization, artificial insemination and egg donors, none of them being a success. Their sister-in-law played by Molly Shannon refers to them as “fertility junkies”, where in that sense she could be right. But, when a couple really desires a baby, at what lengths do they need to go?
As we see Richard and Rachel continuing on with clinical procedures even to the point when financing it is an issue, they find a way to keep going. It’s not easy to watch a woman go through something as strenuous and disheartening as trying to have a child, only to fail every time. But, then you see her pick herself up again and again. You know that somehow she’ll be okay, and a lot of that is comedic. This film also explores the chaos and love of family as well as a portrayal of a young woman, Sadie (Kaylie Carter) who leaves the writing program at Bard College in hopes to make it on her own in Manhattan. Two women, one just starting out in life and a woman who has lived a life, but fears it’s not yet complete.
Then there’s Richard who exercises patience and guilt over having a blockage prohibiting sperm to travel through, and then having to borrow money from his brother to continue procedures. He’s a giver, a caretaker and constantly there for his wife, even during a moment of hesitation, when he questioned whether a baby was what he really wanted. Although, Richard doesn’t prove to be the throwing in the towel type, you can tell that he would go to the ends of the earth for Rachel. They’re comfortable with each other, one bats for the other when needed. Jenkins gives us an honest, interior look at a marriage doing everything and anything they can to start a family. The discouragements, which only turns their marriage into a routine conundrum, and then the back and forth pull of high hopes when their step-niece Sadie decides to be their potential egg donor. Jenkins throws in some beautiful, witty, dry one liners just when you need to be reminded that the comedic spirit is never lost, especially for New Yorkers.
The film ends in uncertainty, although a glimmer of hope keeps popping its head in giving Richard and Rachel reason to believe that it could still happen for them. That’s life, it’s hard, it’s brutal and it’s what you make it.