Sunday, March 7, 2010

"Awards" Night? Ours goes to Maria Bello and cast of The Private Lives of Pippa Lee

Because tonight is Hollywood's version of the old fireside chat, it seems appropriate to remark on some performances as good as any we've seen all year: the ensemble cast of Rebecca Miller's THE PRIVATE LIVES OF PIPPA LEE, in which each actor nails his or her role like the carpenter of all-time (and I'm not talking about Jesus, though that guy does make his own special appearance on one hunky cast member's chest).

Hollywood and its "Acad-
emy" are still, decades later, deliberately mistaking lead roles for supporting.  They do this because they know certain performances stand not a chance against others that will surely make the Best Actor/Actress category -- and so dub them "supporting."  Mo'Nique, Vera Farmiga and Maggie Gyllenhaal hold down the female fort this year, while Matt Damon and Woody Harrelson do the male honors. What garbage this is. Not that each actor isn't good, but they're about as "supporting" as Cheney was to Bush.  On some level, garbage isn't a bad epithet for the Academy Awards in general.

Back to Pippa LeeTrustMovies covered this film when it made its theatrical debut last fall (click here for the full write-up), but as its DVD version appeared only this week, he watched it again and was even more impressed.  Particularly with Maria Bello, shown at top.  While this actress is always wonderful (see her currently in The Yellow Handkerchief), here she brings such scary reality to her "mom" role, such commitment and variation that we feel her pain -- all of it -- even as we begin to despise her.  This is the kind of role (and performance in it) that fully deserves the "supporting" title, especially since there is still no "Oscar" category for ensemble work.

Another reason to see the film is Alan Arkin's terrific performance in a role that offers this fine actor (shown at left) a ten-times more challenging opportunity than did his award-winning but rather two-note turn in Little Miss Sunshine.  A second viewing made Robin Wright Penn's title performance seem even stronger, with exceptionally good work coming in from Winona Ryder (what a comedienne she's turned out to be!), Shirley Knight, Keanu Reeves and Julianne Moore (shown below), among others.

So when you've had enough of another crass and over-
wrought "Oscar" presentation and its jiggering of definition and meaning, pop Pippa into your DVD player and watch the pros have their day. In addition to the fine acting on display, Ms Miller is to be congratulated for filling her film with smart and funny ideas about the way we age and mature (or not), procreate and parent, live and die.  Enjoy!

The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, from Screen Media distribu-
tion, is available for sale or rent from your video source of choice.

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