Private Lives of Pippa Lee, The (Blu-ray) (2009)

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Released 27-Apr-2010

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama None
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2009
Running Time 93:11
RSDL / Flipper No/No Cast & Crew
Start Up Programme
Region Coding 4 Directed By Rebecca Miller
Icon Entertainment Starring Robin Wright Penn
Mike Binder
Alan Arkin
Winona Ryder
Ryan McDonald
Cornelius West
Maria Bello
Arnie Burton
Case ?
RPI ? Music Michael Rohatyn

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (2304Kb/s)
English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 (2304Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

  The recent Oscar ceremony produced only a few surprises and odd moments. The ever reliably controversial Sean Penn made a cryptic remark that both he and the Academy had been remiss in failing to recognise "someone" two years running. Trivia buffs soon got to the bottom of it - Penn was admitting his own failure for acknowledging former wife, Robin Wright Penn in his acceptance speech for Milk. He also had a dig at the Academy for not nominating his former wife for her performance in The Private Lives of Pippa Lee.

He does have a point. Wright Penn gives a career best performance in this domestic drama. However the great stumbling block to Oscar acknowledgement was no doubt that the film itself didn't match the quality of the performances. Make no mistake, the film is no disaster and represents another interesting take on women in crisis from writer/director Rebecca Miller (daughter of playwright Arthur Miller). Its just that the some of the performance never quite reaches a unified whole to create a memorable experience.

Pippa Lee (Wright Penn) is a middle aged woman married to a much older man,  Herb Lee (Alan Arkin). He is a noted publisher and the couple lived happily in Manhattan until a series of heart attacks forced Herb into retirement. The quiet life in a retirement village in Connecticut seems like several shades of death for the still vital Pippa.

The film plays out in a few time periods. Pippa Lee is something of an enigma to those around her. Seemingly a quiet well adjusted woman her calm exterior hides a wild past. Young Pippa grows up in a household with a mother (Maria Bello) on anti depressants, experiencing wild mood swings. Pippa as a teenager is played by Gossip Girl/Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants star, Blake Lively. Her journey into her own drug addled existence is finally stopped when she meets the dynamic Herb. He has his own problems with a disturbed wife (Monica Bellucci) but the pair become inseparable.

Isolated in the retirement village environment Pippa begins to suffer psychological problems including a bout of sleepwalking. Her salvation of sorts comes in meeting Chris, a troubled former "Jesus freak" who sports a full chest tattoo of the Son of God. Chris is played by Keanu Reeves in a nice dramatic turn. The ever reliable Alan Arkin is a perfect Herb but the film really belongs to Wright-Penn who acts her heart out at portraying this cypher like character.

Pippa Lee is a drama seasoned with some levity. It is nice to see Winona Ryder pop up in a small part. Ultimately, though the performances struggle to overcome a story that lacks a compelling narrative. In the opening scene a character describes Pippa as a mystery and she remains so for the rest of the movie. Her life decisions are explicable by her background and her need for absolutes, absolute wantonness or absolute protection but the core of her character is still an enigma. Quirky voice-overs don't really help.

Still for those who like Wright-Penn and others who admire loose drama this is an enjoyable film.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality


 The Private Lives of Pippa Lee was shot on 35mm film and projected at a 1.85:1 aspect ratio. That ratio has been preserved for this Blu-ray release.

The transfer quality is pretty good throughout. There is a fair bit of grain which lends a 70s filmic quality to the movie. Some may find the image a bit soft but for my part I thought the Blu-ray captures the right balance between sharpness and immersion. This is probably not a film to show off your home theatre system but the all-important flesh tones are accurate and the level of detail in the faces is superb. Each worry line in the otherwise serene Pippa can be seen.

Colours are bright and clear within a chilly colour scheme that Miller uses to portray the sterility of the retirement village.

There are no compression problems or other technical issues.

There are subtitles for the Hearing Impaired which give a good account of on-screen action.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


  Icon Entertainment continues its recent tend by giving The Private Lives of Pippa Lee both an English Dolby Digital True HD 5.1 soundtrack and a DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack. Given that most players and receivers can decode both formats it seems like a strange decision. In any event, both tracks are overkill for what is essentially a chamber piece. The dialogue can be heard clearly and there are no technical problems with the transfer. The actors are in audio sync.

Longtime Miller collaborator Michael Rohatyn is responsible (in a good way) for the sensitive score which perfectly complements the action.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


There are no extras on this bare-bones release.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

The Region A Blu-ray release apparently contains a commentary track with Miller and Wright-Penn. That track has been criticized for its earnest but dry nature. Still it is better than nothing. There are also some very short cast and crew interviews.

Region A is a clear winner for major fans of the film


    The Private Lives of Pippa Lee is something of an acquired taste. Director Rebecca Miller has always been interested in exploring the entanglements of relationships from a woman's perspective and the film will have greater appeal to the fairer sex. It would have been nice to have a tighter plot and dialogue to string the performances together. It can be enjoyed, however, purely on a performance level.

The transfer is fine both in terms of sound and vision. It is no showstopper but the film gets the treatment it deserves on Blu-ray.

Extras are missed.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer BDP-LX70A Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayPioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR605
SpeakersJBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Interlaced transfer? - M. Lang