Written and directed by Tamara Jenkins, Private Life follows married couple Rachel (Kathryn Hahn) and Richard (Paul Giamatti) as their relationship is seriously tested by their ongoing struggle to conceive a child. Filmmaker Jenkins has infused Private Life with a deliberately-paced and consistently subdued feel that complements her admittedly low-key screenplay quite well, with the movie’s atmosphere of palpable authenticity certainly heightened by the impressive, lived-in work from both Hahn and Giamatti. (And it’s clear, too, that the actors receive top-notch support from a periphery cast that includes Molly Shannon, John Carroll Lynch, and Denis O’Hare.) There’s little doubt, however, that the picture’s slow-moving sensibilities wind up highlighting the somewhat repetitive aspects of Jenkins’ script, as the bulk of Private Life‘s midsection concerns itself with the central character’s various attempts at bringing a child into their lives and, to a more pronounced extent, their ongoing (and increasingly vicious) arguments with one another – which ensures that the picture grows less and less involving as it progresses. It is, as such, apparent that the movie eventually confirms its place as a watchable yet arms-length drama that one admires more than one enjoys (ie the emotional impact of the film’s third act is seriously muted as a result of Jenkins’ matter-of-fact approach), although, by that same token, it does seem fairly obvious that Private Life remains a searing portrait of a couple consumed by their desire for children.
**1/2 out of ****