Finally got around to watching the much-acclaimed Private Life on Netflix. And if you’re struggling with infertility, and looking for movies, books, anything that will help demystify your experience and make you feel even slightly better, and chance upon it, my honest advice is not to watch it. This isn’t the right movie for you right now.
The movie takes every possible negative outcome, a couple of stereotypes (the neurotic IVF wife, desperate and irrational, the balding husband with one testicle, failed cycles, failed back up plans, failed adoption, false hope), and ties it together in an attempt at social commentary on everything from the desperation of the infertile couple, the cold waiting rooms (down to the pictures of the babies on the walls), the idiotic doctors, the predatory nature of adoption, the complications of surrogacy/donor-assisted fertility, the challenge of judgemental family and friends, to how all this leaves your marriage a complete shitshow.
I’m not saying any of this is untrue. It’s spot on, and a rare glimpse into some of our realities. But it’s a painful watch, and the film itself feels predatory. Writer and director Tamara Jenkins wrote it only after her own fertility treatment was successful (I am genuinely happy for her). By her own account, she says the film was a recognition of the statistics – that most people are not. But it must be infinitely easier to turn that into a comedy once you’ve successfully made it to the other side of the fence.
The critics, of course, loved it. It made the NYT Critics Pick for how it accurately reflected both art and life, though I really wondered how “piquant” the telling of this story was. The Guardian called this story of the “fertility loser” “painfully funny“, and then added this throwaway line: “In the more Hollywood version, you’d get Bradley Cooper, too handsome, too dazzling to play a man who makes his living from pickles. It helps that Giamatti and Hahn actually look like the kind of people they’re playing.” Because the infertile writer should look defeated, dress badly, and have unkempt hair and a desperate, neurotic look about her. That’s how we all are, right?
Sure, the movie has its sharp one-liners, absurd conundrums, and lighter moments. But having been through multiple IVF failures, and finding myself at a complete dead-end, the film left me more down and desolate, and feeling oddly betrayed.
But perhaps it was entirely too raw for now – and if you’re still trying to stay hopeful about any kind of happy ending, I’m guessing you might feel the same way.
For what was dubbed a comedy, I certainly wasn’t laughing.
PS: I know I have gone silent for a long time. Just overwhelmed by a lot that has been going on (if the review doesn’t make that clear enough haha). I’ll be back. Thanks to everyone who checked in ❤