There is something strange about an author adapting and directing a film of her own novel. Rebecca Miller’s The Private Lives Of Pippa Lee is exactly this thing, and you wonder how long Miller wants to live in the head of her remarkably passive character. Perhaps the novel was written because she couldn’t get the film made. I can certainly see it being a bit of an ask for producers: a film about a woman who has seemingly given all of herself to her family having a bit of a breakdown. Its not quite grand Sirkian melodrama, but even if it were (and it gets close) there isn’t much of a market for said melodrama at the moment. Indeed this is what is often termed as woman’s picture, a small film about the life of a woman who is in a particular rut that is probably still a peculiarly female situation (stay at home, super-organised wife).

So Rebecca writes the novel, and then gets a chance to make the film. But how do you tell the story of how a woman becomes so quite and passive? Well with flashbacks and voice-over of course. I assume the book is strongly first person narrated by Pippa, but what may seem nuanced in a novel often comes off as hackneyed on screen. Maria Bello’s pill poppin’ momma, Julianne Moore’s fetish photographer. Did Miller really adapt the book so she could flesh out Pippa’s husband into an Alan Arkin type, played by Alan Arkin doing a perfect Alan Arkin (including dying!). That said, all the characters are well fleshed out, not surprising though if she had already fleshed them out in considerable more detail in a novel.

For all that, its an OK little movie, possibly due to the novelty of its mundanity. Its one of those films that knows exactly how to use Keanu Reeves (sparingly as an even more inert character than the lead). And the moral of the film is nice, that there may be more to the those in our lives we rely on. And it is all anchored around a good Robin Wright Penn performance. I just wonder if this story needed telling twice. Second time in a medium that it is seemingly not suited to.