While the opening credits roll over black, we hear Rachel (Kathryn Hahn) sigh, and then her husband, Richard (Paul Giamatti) tells her to turn over. We see Rachel in a T-shirt and panties laying on the bed as Richard looms over her. We soon realize that Richard is about to give Rachel a shot in her but. He tells her to breathe, counts to 3 and then inserts the injection into her. She cries out in pain, and after the shot is taken out, she accuses Richard of hitting a nerve. They discuss why the shot hurt so much and then Richard walks over and deposits the syringe into a big plastic bottle and grabs a bag of frozen food for Rachel to put on her sore injection spot. She grabs the package from him and places it emphatically on the place where she got the shot.
We cut to 36 hours later and Richard and Rachel are in a very crowded waiting room. Almost everyone in the room, including Richard and Rachel, look like they would rather be anywhere else than there. We cut to Rachel taking off all her jewelry and putting on a hospital gown. Richard is handed consent forms as Rachel walks up to him wearing the gown near the front desk. Rachel complains about how cold she is, and Richard tells her to relax. They sit down in a hallway where other couples are sitting waiting for a procedure. Rachel questions why are they doing this and if they are insane going on with this procedure, as she signs the release forms. Other couples look at Richard and Rachel as Rachel goes on a rant about ‘overpopulation, climate change and Neo-Nazi’s.’ Rachel gets called into the surgical room, and the couple give each other reinsurances that everything will be great.
We cut to Richard watching porn in an exam room, his pants and shorts are at his feet. He has a cup to ejaculate in. Richard looks at the screen in disgust and tries to turn off the TV, only to increase the sound. He continues to try and turn off the TV, only to have the batteries in the remote fly across the room. He gets up and waddles across the room with his pants and underwear still at his feet. We cut to an anesthesiologist talking to Rachel about how his kid thinks his job is boring, while Rachel starts to go under. This is the first of many steps in Rachel and Richard’s long journey to have a child. Will they be successful in their attempt to have a child? Only time will tell.
‘Private Life’ is the story of a couple, both in their forties, who are desperate to have a child, whether by in vito fertilization or by adoption, no matter what the cost, both emotionally and monetarily. The film highlights the emotional toll it places on couples to go through the IVF process. So much can go wrong, and you pay a ton of money for what essentially is a ‘crapshoot.’ It’s tough just getting prepared for IVF, and the film does a great job of showing just how much Rachel has to endure just to get to the procedure. Rachel receives injections, takes tons of vitamins and fertility aids, and has to go through wild mood swings. Those mood swings and the feeling by Rachel that she has failed as a woman for not getting pregnant put a great deal of strain on the marriage, as Richard tries but not always succeeding, to be as supportive of his wife as he can. The film almost crackles with tension as Richard and Rachel’s strive for parenthood keep getting thwarted.
Kathryn Hahn is a force of nature in this film as she gives a performance that at times is funny but for the most part is heartbreakingly real. Her Rachel struggles with thoughts that she waited too long to have a child, that Rachel put her career first, thinking she had time when apparently she didn’t. Hahn and Giamatti have brilliant chemistry, giving off a vibe that they have been a couple for years and years. Giamatti stands toe to toe with Hahn and delivers his lines with a world-weariness that only Giamatti can do. The cast has a sparkling supporting cast including Molly Shannon, who keeps impressing me with her acting chops, the always dependable John Carroll Lynch and Kayli Carter, who plays Richard and Rachel’s step-niece, an impressive performance that almost steals the movie for Hahn and Giamatti
Director/writer Tamara Jenkins has brought us a film that feels real and understands the struggles that older couples go through to have children, showing us the agony and anguish causing couples to doubt themselves and their relationships. ‘Private Life’ is an occasionally funny movie but mostly full of heartache moments about a couple that may never get what they wanted most, a family.
My Rating: Full Price
My movie rating system from best to worst:
1). I Would Pay to See it Again
2). Full Price
3). Bargain Matinee
5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
The film is currently on the Netflix platform