Private Life is a funny Thanksgiving film about family dysfunction

If you’re looking for something to watch while you eat your third bun and fourth piece of cake this Thanksgiving, you’ve come to the right place private life. Thanksgiving movies are shockingly hard to come by. There’s a plethora of Halloween and Christmas gems out there, but as a middle-aged holiday, Thanksgiving rarely gets a chance to shine. But while the amount of Turkey Day movies may be small, the quality of the movies we have is special Tamara Jenkin‘ Dramedy 2018 – more than makes up for it.


private life focuses on New York writer Rachel (Catherine Hahnwho was stripped of an Oscar nomination for her performance) and Richard (Paul Giamatti, also robbed) while struggling to have a child. They try everything — fertility treatments, a surrogate, adoption — and each path eventually leads to heartbreak. That is, until her 25-year-old step-niece Sadie (Breakout star Kayli Carter) enter the game. A talented but aimless artist in search of meaning, Sadie agrees to donate her eggs so her dreams of becoming a parent can come true. It’s an offer that leads to a beautiful, complicated dynamic between the three of them and Sadie’s immediate family — namely her mother, Cynthia (the delightfully edgy one Molly Shannon). It’s the perfect Thanksgiving flick for a variety of reasons.

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RELATED: Netflix should be pushing Kathryn Hahn for an Oscar nomination for Best Actress for ‘Private Life.’


‘private life’ Serves a painfully relatable Thanksgiving dinner

personal life kayli carter sadie molly shannon cynthia
Image via Netflix

The first and most obvious reason for this private life The quintessential Thanksgiving movie is that a key scene unfolds during the usual meal about halfway through the movie. Rachel, Richard and Sadie – who is living with them in her loft while she finishes college online – drive to Cynthia and Sadie’s stepdad Charlie (John Carroll Lynch) house to celebrate the holiday and things quickly get messy. When Cynthia urges everyone to share something they’re grateful for, Sadie decides to drop the bombshell that she’s donating her eggs – an announcement she hasn’t cleared with Rachel and Richard and news that infuriates Cynthia. Cynthia throws her napkin on the table and storms into the kitchen to aggressively carve the turkey while she and Sadie argue about whether she’s making a big mistake.

Arguments are a given at any Thanksgiving dinner — drama is as traditional a dish as stuffing or mashed potatoes and gravy — and private life borrows from that, seamlessly blending the heavy, dramatic moments with comedy’s masterful beats. It’s the nuance and attention to detail that makes this one of the best beyond a good Thanksgiving scene. While half the family joins in Sadie and Cynthia’s fight in the kitchen, the other half stays in the dining room, listening unattentively to Uncle Bob (Fenton Outlaw) raves about sobriety in his own acceptance speech. Once the conflict escalates to a point beyond repair, Rachel, Richard and Sadie quickly book their car. Cynthia, Charlie and Sadie’s younger sister Charlotte (Emily Robinson) follow close behind as Cynthia keeps scolding them all while Charlie tries to hand them some leftovers wrapped in tinfoil through the car window.

And that doesn’t even mention a reference to an earlier Thanksgiving where Sadie reveals that she overheard Charlie telling her mother that Richard only has one testicle. Along with overeating, another popular Thanksgiving pastime, no matter what family you’re in, is oversharing.

The power of the extended family shines in “private life”

kayli carter sadie kathryn hahn rachel paul giamatti richard personal life
Image via Netflix

Speaking of family, it’s another important part of Thanksgiving. But while the “curious aunt asks when you’re getting married” and the “unworthy, politically incorrect uncle” are definitely clichés that exist for a reason, private life refreshing goes a different way. As an aspiring creative, Sadie feels more connected to her aunt and uncle than to her own parents, going so far as to refer to Rachel and Richard as her “art mom and dad.” She cites them as role models and feels understood and validated by them in a unique and powerful way. “I feel closer to you than anyone else in my family,” she says to Richard. “You understand.”

Rachel and Richard, in turn, take her under their wing, allowing her to stay in their apartment, giving her an internship with their theater company, and giving her notes on her writing—notes that eventually lead to her following in Rachel’s footsteps and being accepted to a renowned writing community. They become mentors, nurturing and supporting them in ways their parents cannot. Although many films portray the extended family as people you only see a few times a year, private life proves you can be as close – if not closer – to them as your immediate family.

“Personal Life” shows that the holidays aren’t always a happy time

Kathryn Hahn as Rachel and Paul Giamatti as Richard sit at a table in Netflix's personal life
Image via Netflix

While private life celebrates the power of family but also touches on a sadder reality: the fact that the holidays aren’t always a happy, easy time for everyone. With an intense focus on family and togetherness, feelings of loneliness and emptiness can be amplified. This is particularly evident in the film’s Halloween scenes. The film spans just over a year, and by the first Halloween, Richard and Rachel completely forget about the holidays.

Depressed after disappointing news about their latest IVF treatment, the kids knock on their door from their building, wanting sweets they don’t have to offer. It feels like salt in the wound – a stark reminder that they don’t have little ones to trick or treat. On the second Halloween, Richard hands out candy before the two take part in a parade amidst a sea of ​​costumed children. While it feels a little more hopeful, there’s still an unmistakable touch of melancholy. It’s bittersweet.

Halloween acts as a sort of prelude to the holiday season, and one can’t help but realize that they’ll have many more of those moments over the next two months. Whether it’s seeing the kids of friends and relatives at get-togethers (which we get glimpses of twice in this film: both in the form of somewhat awkward children’s musical performances) or toddlers perched on Santa’s lap at the mall sitting, passing, wherever you look, you will see the life they so desperately want: one they are constantly surrounded by, yet one that is unattainable. The holidays are a time when family is the focus. Unfortunately, this means those who are struggling to get started are constantly reminded of what they don’t have.

“Privacy” highlights the complications of appreciation

Kayli Carter as Sadie, Paul Giamatti as Richard, Kathryn Hahn as Rachel sit at a table in Netflix's personal life
Image via Netflix

A central theme of Thanksgiving is obviously being thankful for the things you have and private life doesn’t shy away from watching Rachel and Richard struggle with it. By any measure, the two lead comfortable lives: they have a beautiful loft in New York City, Richard has had several successful plays over the years, and Rachel has been published tin house and The New Yorker. Their careers prosper. Rachel’s friend even comments on how excited it is that Rachel is bringing out a book and laments that she hasn’t been able to write since having her baby. Sadie reminds Cynthia that she always told her she had to sacrifice her professional life to raise children, something Rachel and Richard didn’t have to choose between. There are perks and privileges of not having children.

Richard points this out at one point, and reminds Rachel that it was her decision to further push back the date they wanted to try children: after he finished a play, after she published a story, after she finished a book, etc. But Rachel still feels betrayed. All her life she’s felt like she’s been told she can have anything — that it’s possible to succeed in her career and have a family — and now it seems like it’s all just a ruse. In a way, she feels like she was being punished for choosing to focus on her writing and is now scared and regretting that it might be too late. Being grateful is a tricky, sometimes ugly business, as it always seems like the grass is greener on the other side. private life examines this concept head-on.

The final result

Kathryn Hahn as Rachel, Kayli Carter as Sadie, Paul Giamatti as Richard are lying in bed in Netflix's personal life
Image via Netflix

private life is the perfect movie to get you in the Thanksgiving spirit. Not only does it have an expertly executed sequence that takes place on the holiday, but it also delves into the themes of family and gratitude – which the occasion is all about. Better still, it shows families as they really are, in all their dysfunctional, wonderfully messy glory.

It doesn’t shy away from difficult subjects that are often neglected – delving into darker, more sinister aspects of the holiday in raw, real ways, such as: However, it also has an inherent warmth and humor, from the love that permeates every family interaction – particularly between the main trio – to the cozy set and costume design. Grab a plate of leftovers (and maybe a tissue or two) and go for it private life Your Thanksgiving clock this year. They will thank you.

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