Private Life (Tamara Jenkins, 2018)

Discuss films of the 21st century including current cinema, current filmmakers, and film festivals.
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Persona
Joined: Wed Mar 07, 2018 1:16 pm

Private Life (Tamara Jenkins, 2018)

#1 Post by Persona » Thu Oct 11, 2018 8:36 am

Really enjoyed Tamara Jenkins' Private Life on Netflix. It can feel a tad slight at times, at other times a bit too Baumbach-y, but the subject matter was worth exploring and I feel like the film explores it in a way that's both moving and very entertaining. Jenkins has a deft hand with it and Giamatti and Hahn are fantastic.

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ianthemovie
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Re: The Films of 2018

#2 Post by ianthemovie » Sat Oct 13, 2018 9:48 am

I will second the praise for Private Life which I caught at NYFF last weekend and which I guess has already come out on Netflix. Really superb relationship comedy-drama that sadly now feels old-fashioned even though ten years ago it seems like there were a million of these types of movies coming out. Maybe there still are, but Jenkins is really one of the best practitioners (along with Baumbach) of this type of literate, screenplay-and-performance driven indie realism. It's witty without ever feeling arch or artificial and emotionally moving without ever feeling precious. Giamatti and Hahn are excellent and their characters feel very lived-in, down to the rumpled bedsheets and smudged glasses and frumpy hair and clothes. It has a messy, loose quality that I really appreciated (in contrast to an indie drama like Wildllife, which I saw the night before and which felt restrained, antiseptic, and generally lifeless). I suppose some people will disparage Private Life for being not "cinematic" enough but honestly how many other films have writing and acting this good? I'll take it.

[EDIT: It's really a shame Giamatti hasn't gotten much film work lately (unless I'm missing some things?). This movie was a reminder of how good he is and it's wonderful to see him play a decent guy and a good husband as opposed to the pathetic loser/schmuck roles that he specialized in--and played very well--in the early 2000s.]

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mfunk9786
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Re: Private Life (Tamara Jenkins, 2018)

#3 Post by mfunk9786 » Mon Dec 10, 2018 1:44 pm

I also enjoyed this quite a bit, but it fell a little short of being the excellent film it probably could have been. Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti are fantastic and brave here, and very authentically embody their roles, which sometimes requires going to very uncomfortable places. But once Kayli Carter is introduced into the mix, it doesn't feel like it's quite as well-observed as it could be, and the whole enterprise feels a little like it was made 20 years ago at times. Her character has a romantic subplot with a coworker that goes absolutely nowhere, and she's often seen through an eye-rollingly outdated "Young people are alien to us! Look, she's wearing a thong! She's using a cell phone! She has strong opinions about things!" lens that feels out of place not only within the well-observed world of the film, but like an incorrect observation of these perceptive and worldly leads. We're asked to see them as the "cool aunt and uncle" who live in the city and know about art and culture on one hand, but also see them as sort of modern Woody Allen characters, bumbling through the strangeness of the demands of a world that is now totally unfamiliar to them (because they're too busy reading books, surely). Baumbach got this balance to work better in While We're Young, and I wasn't even particularly fond of that film. But Private Life's tonal issues aside, it's incredibly entertaining and sweet and thought-provoking (watch this film with your spouse if you've got one), and just because it's good-but-not-great doesn't mean there isn't a ton to like here.

And yes, I am so, so fond of Giamatti. Easily the most underappreciated actor on the planet, but I don't know if he'd have the same vibe if it were any other way. The man was born to be underappreciated, and... well, I appreciate that very much.

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Persona
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Re: Private Life (Tamara Jenkins, 2018)

#4 Post by Persona » Mon Dec 10, 2018 5:14 pm

I do agree, the niece is kind of a reductive character and that storyline doesn't work nearly as great as the rest of the film. But, somehow, even though it's a major part of the movie, it didn't really detract from the film overall for me. I think I just sort of accepted it as "the plot" while allowing myself to really enjoy Giamatti's and Hahn's characters regardless of what Jenkins was throwing at them.

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mfunk9786
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Re: Private Life (Tamara Jenkins, 2018)

#5 Post by mfunk9786 » Mon Dec 10, 2018 6:18 pm

I just think Jenkins is a smart enough writer to know better - there's a ton of evidence of it all throughout her own film right here to point to. And she gets the emotional beats of that character correct, she feels like a real person. But the elements that are introduced to "other" this young woman from this couple are odd things to fixate on, stale Juno-adjacent quirks and cultural oddities that came and went years ago. I have to assume this is the first film in at least a decade to have a "whale tail" punchline.

connor
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Re: Private Life (Tamara Jenkins, 2018)

#6 Post by connor » Tue Dec 11, 2018 12:00 pm

I thought this was fantastic. Pretty close to perfect.

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