Thanks for the heartache, Netflix.
With all the horror movies being released around this time of year, it can sometimes be nice to watch something a little less intense and bit more feel-good, such as Private Life.
A bit more feel-good in this case meaning a story about a couple who can’t have kids, likely won’t ever have kids and live in a world where nobody wants to give them their kids. What could be more pleasant than that?
Private Life is a new Netflix-original film which stars Paul Giamatti and Kathryn Hahn as a couple who is desperately trying to have a baby, coming from Slums of Beverly Hills and The Savages director Tamara Jenkins.
Desperately isn’t an exaggeration, either. Richard (Giamatti) and Rachel (Hahn) have literally tried every kind of fertility treatment and artificial insemination known to man at this point, sometimes for years at a time.
Not a single one of them has worked.
Why they would be so distraught over this, truly, is beyond me. Private Life goes the extra mile to show that this couple has two beautiful dogs, a gorgeous looking apartment and jobs that pretty much allow them to work at their own leisure. Having kids would seemingly mess all of that up. Did none of y’all see Tully?
Anyways, they’ve tried adopting and finding a surrogate mother too, of course, but those efforts didn’t exactly pan out either.
Their marriage hasn’t exactly flourished because of all this failure. The two of them — especially Rachel — have become so obsessed with the idea of being parents that it really hasn’t left any room for romance or, you know, happiness in their relationship.
Knowing they're growing older by the minute, the two of them know that time is quickly running out. That’s when Sadie (Kayli Carter) enters the scene.
Richard’s brother Charlie (John Carroll Lynch) and his wife Cynthia (Molly Shannon) have two daughters: Charlotte (Emily Robinson), who is still in high school and living at home, and Sadie, who is 25-years-old and living at college while trying to become a writer.
Sadie doesn’t necessarily always get along with her parents, so she winds up crashing at Richard and Rachel’s apartment a lot of the time. She’s also a really gifted and talented individual who, Richard and Rachel think at least, will someday make a great mother.
That’s when the idea starts to form.
While Rachel is uncomfortable with the idea of getting an egg from an unknown donor, she’s oddly okay with the idea of Sadie providing that egg (Charlie is her step-father, meaning she’s not blood-related to any of them and it’s not AS weird as you might think, but still pretty weird nonetheless).
They confront her about this and, surprisingly, she’s super onboard with it. In fact, she says yes within a matter of two minutes flat.
Her parents, however, aren’t so crazy about this idea. Charlie could really care less but Cynthia takes deep offense to this and what’s to put an end to it. Sadie doesn’t really care, though, as she’s determined to do her own thing, creating all kinds of drama and tension that Rachel and Richard then have to step around
In the process, there’s a lot of life lessons to be learned by everyone, while we, the audience, are subjected to far more reproductive talk than you might have been expecting. Seriously, Private Life is like Juno meets a Woody Allen movie meets a sixth-grade sex-ed class.
Maybe that doesn’t sound like the most riveting thing in the world, but there are parts of Private Life that certainly has charm. Mainly, that charm comes from our three lead actors — Giamatti, Hahn and Carter — as they are all incredibly talented, funny and give good performances here.
I bought Giamatti and Hahn as a couple not necessarily because of the chemistry that they have with one another, but rather their ability to display a lack of chemistry (I’m sure they could still play a very loving husband and wife and be perfectly charming together). Really, Private Life isn’t so much about the two of them trying to have a baby as it is about the way that want ends up slowly destroying their marriage.
At least, that’s what Private Life is when it’s at its best (dark, I know, but still true). There are still plenty of times where the film gets sidetracked and starts focusing on other, less-interesting aspects.
Again, Carter gives a good performance here and probably plays the most likable person in the movie, but there’s a lot of extra fluff added to her character. She’s an important part of the story, sure, but we don’t need subplots about her falling for some guy who looks like David Schwimmer (actually played by Desmin Borges) or having these arguments with her parents. All of that just feels like a forced drama that diverts from the central storyline.
Which might have been okay if it was added to pad the runtime or something, but Private Life comes in at the 2-hour mark and really doesn’t need to. You could easily cut out a good 15 or 20 minutes off this thing and it would be a much smoother, better-paced journey.
Whether that journey is still worth taking is really up to you. There were parts about Private Life that I really liked — I think it ended at the perfect time and would have been upset if there was another scene after where it cuts off. There were also parts I didn’t like so much, or rather, were bored by.
This isn’t quite the heartwarming, feel-good movie Netflix may be marketing as, but there are still some important things that Private Life has to say — even if those things might be buried by a whole lot of muddle.
Watch the trailer for Private Life here and then let us know, in the comments below, what you thought of this movie!