Director Tamara Jenkins brings her talents to Netflix with this week’s original feature Private Life. In the movie Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti play Rachel and Richard, a relatively successful New York couple who realize they’re getting older and so decide the time is finally right to have a baby. Things don’t go as planned though and they wind up engaging in fertility treatments that are frustrating and which also don’t seem to be effective.
One day their step-niece Tiffany (Lizzy DeClement) comes to visit and stay with them for a while. That creates a whole new dynamic in Rachel and Richard’s life that complicates their feelings about what they’re doing, what they really want and what having a family really means.
The first poster was released in late August and featured the work of illustrator Chris Ware, who had previously done the poster for Jenkins’ The Savages in 2008. Using that same style, the images shows a collection of people standing or walking on a sidewalk, a city park in back of them and the skyline in the background. The implication here is that we’ll come into contact or meet most or all of these characters over the course of the film.
You get an immediate sense of the lives Richard and Rachel lead when the trailer opens as we’re presented with scenes of the kind of mid-range artistic existence filled with small parties with friends and Valium. Their attempts to conceive aren’t going well, even after they start the fertility treatments and it’s killing them a little bit. Into this comes Tiffany, who’s a welcome distraction and a breath of fresh air, though her parents aren’t thrilled with what she’s done. The three settle into their lives, though, and keep making do.
Hahn and Giamatti are so effortlessly good in this trailer it’s silly. What really jumps out at me, though, is how the story seems like something Woody Allen might have written with the exceptions of 1) No creepy relationship developing with the young niece and 2) Everyone actually seems to learn something.
Online and Social
Some support on Netflix’s brand social profiles but that’s about it.
Advertising and Cross-Promotions
Nothing I’m aware of, but I expect to see some online ads of various kinds in the next few days.
Media and Publicity
The movie debuted at the Sundance Film Festival and while the reaction was somewhat mixed, everyone seemed to agree it was great to have Jenkins back in the director’s chair for another feature. While there she spoke about the story of the movie as well as the journey she took from an initial development deal with Amazon Studios to eventually winding up at Netflix with the freedom and support she needed to make the movie, albeit on a tight shooting schedule.
Jenkins spoke here along with others about how this was just one of a handful of movies from female directors distributed by Netflix, something other studios and distributors still come up way short in.
I have to ask one more time: How is it this is the first movie we’ve seen from Tamara Jenkins in over a decade? Based on the marketing this is a similar story to dozens of others in that time, many of which weren’t nearly as good as The Savages. I don’t understand.
That to the side, this seems like the kind of movie Netflix – and Amazon and others – can really latch on to when people start complaining about the quality of their original films. It’s from a well-known and well-respected writer/director, has a great cast and is exactly the kind of movie studios don’t have much faith in anymore. The marketing sells it as a compelling drama that should be attractive to fans of Jenkins’ earlier films as well as of grounded character dramas in general.
PICKING UP THE SPARE
Costar Molly Shannon appeared on “Late Night.”
Director Tamara Jenkins was interviewed here about the story and what motivated her to make this movie at this time.