A concise, somewhat theatrical film built largely on a number of talky intimate encounters, Private Life is a hit-and-miss piece with some fine performances, much self-indulgence, sometimes excruciatingly literary dialogue, and a strong, emotionally nuanced central turn from Sienna Miller that holds it all together when dramatic coherence falters.
There’s a good deal in this movie that’s awkward, but I was also impressed by the earnestness of its various inquiries, and the latitude given to Miller, whose character seems more her own active creation than Toback’s. I also liked the digital-cinema-meets-Nouvelle-Vague visual stylings of the movie.
Vera just has to get through [her day], and in the process her insecurities, her willingness to evade the truth, her submerged hopes become real to us—they cut like tiny glass slivers... Toback does a lot with a little. The picture is set mostly in that swank apartment, with a road trip up the Hudson as an interlude. It’s not wholly clear what he’s trying to say, but the movie captures the texture of what it’s like to have to think on your feet, even as the ground is slipping away from you.