Over the course of Private Life, writer-director Tamara Jenkins' new film (playing the New York Film Festival this week it hits Netflix on Friday), we revisit the same scene of an ongoing crime - the waiting room of an upscale baby-making boutique where our main characters, Rachel (Kathryn Hahn) and Richard (Paul Giamatti), wait for their results. What results? Oh all sorts - tests, tests of tests, tests of other people's tests. They just wait for something - Godot in a test tube.
And all around them keep seeing the same faces - Rachel and Richard are not alone, they're joined by a mad tangle of umbilical cords to several other couples, and we watch all of their faces slacken, sadden, with time and defeat. Because Jenkins, for all her laser-like focus on this couple's specifics, their foibles and witticisms and exhausting particulars, is also and always interested in the small circles that surround them, and the dynamics of every single person that she puts on-screen. She's generous like that.
Private Life is a deeply generous film - curious and kind and funny, and boundlessly sad at times. Not that you'd expect much less in these warm, capable hands - this is kind of these folk's brand. Everybody's great - Molly Shannon and Giamatti shine, and Kayli Carter is a marvelous new find, kind of the love child of Saoirse Ronan and Paul Dano with all of that talent passed down. Somebody find a slot in Supporting Actress stat. But it's the teaming of Hahn with Jenkins that's just the emotional lightning bolt you expect it to be - Hahn, electrically realistic as ever, is a perfect match for this writer-director. Together they sing, and may they sing together for a dozen more movies. This is a good tune.
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