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Private Life


Private Life
The creative force behind The Savages knocks it out of the park with 2018's Private Life, a poignant, funny, heartbreaking, and achingly real look at a situation that millions of couples are going through, but no one ever talks about, anchored by a pair of brilliant performances by two of the industry's most underrated actors.

The Netflix production stars Paul Giamatti as Richard, a theater director and Kathryn Hahn as Rachel his writer wife, who is about to have a book published, who have been going through their own version of hell trying to have a baby. They have spent years dabbling with in vitro fertilization and adoption in attempts to start a family, sadly, to no avail. A light at the end the infertility tunnel finally seems to be appearing when Richard's unfocused, college dropout niece agrees to donate an egg so that Richard and Rachel can be parents.

As she did with The Savages, director/screenwriter Tamara Jenkins has focused on a squirm-worthy subject and dissects it with microscopic intensity, offering a look into the process of in vitro fertilization unlike anything I have ever seen. The film efficiently chronicles the physical, emotional, and financial ramifications of taking this painful journey. The doctors, the waiting rooms, the medications, the forms, all those things that can not only take toll on a couple's finances, but, more importantly, on a marriage as well. As solid as Richard and Rachel's marriage is and their commitment to having a family is, we can't help but see this marriage beginning to crumble under the surface. The scene about thirty minutes in where they are waiting to meet a young girl who was planning to give them her baby and never shows up was a heartbreaker.

Another layer of tension brought to the story, at least in this reviewer's eyes, is the possibility that Richard is tired of this and is not as committed to it as Rachel is. Richard does his best to disguise his doubts to Rachel, but we can see it and keep waiting for our suspicions to be confirmed and to see Rachel's reaction to the revelation. The reveal of another effect this journey has had on the marriage in the final act was jaw-dropping.

Jenkins also manages to bring a lightness to the situation through an angle I didn't see coming. I was simultaneously amused and annoyed by the character of Rachel's doctor, beautifully played by Denis O'Hare, who spends a lot of time with the couple making light of the situation, trying to bring levity to a situation that really isn't funny. It reminded me of dentists who try to have conversations with patients while they have drills and picks stuck in their mouths.

Jenkins' s direction includes some clever camerawork that gave the story the voyeuristic quality it has and why the title of the film is so perfect. This is a very private story. These people are going through something so private and would love emotional support but just can't talk about it. This is beautifully manifested through every moment where Rachel announces that part of their infertility issue is the fact that Richard only has one testicle.

Paul Giamatti and Kathryn Hahn, actors known primarily for supporting roles, are finally given a chance to be center stage and give Oscar-worthy performances where you never catch them "acting." Kayli Carter is lovely as the niece, Sadie, as are John Carroll Lynch and Molly Shannon as her parents. A unique motion picture that had my emotions all over the place, right up to the gut-wrenching finale.