“Private Life” is the story of Rachel and Richard, (Kathryn Hahn and Paul Giamatti) a middle-aged couple in New York who experience the desperate and frustrating emotions of trying to have a child by any means possible.
Their options include fertility treatments, adoption or with a surrogate. Thanks to Sadie it gets closer to being a reality. Sadi (Kaylie Carter) is Richard’s niece by marriage, who agrees to donate her eggs. The Knockturnal spoke to Kaylie Carter, Tamara Jenkins and Desmin Borges at the New York Film Festival premiere at Alice Tully Hall on Monday, October 1.
The Knockturnal: You’re a young woman trying to find herself in this movie.
Kaylie Carter: Yes, absolutely. She doesn’t know what she wants to do yet. There seems to be this expectation from young people to know what they wanna do so much sooner. They have to know where they’re heading and know exactly what their plans are in life, and she doesn’t. And I think through this couple who’ve seen their plans and hope fall apart, she realizes that she has to take accountability in her own life.
The Knockturnal: I didn’t know anything about harvesting eggs. What did you know?
Kaylie Carter: I didn’t know a lot. I went through a really deep wormhole of fertility knowledge. I like to do a lot of research so I read a lot of message boards of women talking about their experiences. I read everything that tells you what you could possibly go through. The physical toll of women is massive and the emotional burden on the couple that’s going through it is something that’s never talked about, so I’m really glad that this film explores this topic.
The Knockturnal: Do you have a different outlook on fertility now that you’ve done this project?
Kaylie Carter: Certainly. I’ve always known that it operates as sort of a business which I can’t say that I agree with. It’s very money driven. It’s something people take for granted. They just go out and do it and have a baby. And then you see this couple trying so desperately hard to have one and it made me check in with myself and think about what my priorities are now and down the line.
The Knockturnal: How do you go from this sweet young women with many layers to Squeaky Fromme?
Kaylie Carter: I mean I had already been writing a short film about Squeaky when I got that audition so it was something that I was interested in. I knew that there was a physical similarity. I knew I had always been really affected and that happened in a time where we had new information on cult mentality and what happens to people when they are used in that way. So the fact that it was another female director telling a female-driven story is kinda what led me forward. I’d love to play all different types of women as long as they are complex and interesting. And both of these women are complex and interesting for good or bad.
The Knockturnal: Talk about filming in New York and what that adds to the movie?
Tamara Jenkins: Well the characters are true New Yorkers, from a very specific type of breed. They are hanging onto Manhattan by the skin of their teeth. They live in the east village, they are artists with a very inconsistent income. It all informs their behavior, their life choices, I really wanted to get New York right.
The Knockturnal: I remember you saying it was very personal. Did it mirror your experiences?
Tamara Jenkins: Oh no it’s not a memoir but I had my own fertility saga with my husband in trying to get a baby when we were not young anymore. So the core understanding of the emotional experience of it is mine, but the details are fiction.
The Knockturnal: It’s a story of marriage as well, talk about that. How much can this marriage take?
Tamara Jenkins: Well marriage goes through a lot of stuff. And their marriage is under a siege and what they feel like is that their bodies are betraying them and the world. I think that’s what marriage is. It’s all different thing and how you weather those storms is what defines a marriage.
The Knockturnal: Was Kathryn Hahn your first choice?
Tamara Jenkins: Yes, my casting director Jeanne McCarthy it was the first thing out of her mouth. She said, “Well Kathryn Hahn is the perfect person”.
The Knockturnal: Do you see a specific type of change for women in movies?
Tamara Jenkins: I hope so. I know there’s a lot of consciousness about it I don’t know if it’s been materialized in actuality but I know there is a consciousness raised. The lack of women directors has been talked about a lot and there’s lots of studies. So hopefully the awareness, the actual reality will catch up with the consciousness raised.
The Knockturnal: Do you see female cinematographers?
Tamara Jenkins: There’s still very few. No I don’t see it. It takes a while, there’s a lot of change. It takes time to change. The first step is consciousness raised and then the next step is like “Ok how do we do something about this?” That’s the tricky part.
The Knockturnal: I’m surprised at all the humor in this film. I mean it’s a serious subject but you almost couldn’t take it without laughing.
Tamara Jenkins: I think it’s the way I think I am in the first place. I think it’s my tone and what I’m attracted to. It’s very connected. The comedy and the drama is very connected to me in anything that I approach. I always say there’s this shimmer space in between comedy and drama.
The Knockturnal: Tell me about working on this film and working with the director who is a screenwriter and producer.
Desmin Borges: Working with Tamara has been at the top of my list every since I first saw Slums of Beverly Hills. I think I watched that movie about 40 or 45 times just that year when it came out. The way she kinda just continues to peel back the layers of the onion for every individual character no matter how prominent or not prominent they are is an incredible thing. To see the level of humanity she threw into everything so we could keep the humor up and the brevity up while it’s going through this dark turn it’s just really breathtaking to watch. So the opportunity to work in any capacity I jumped at it right away.
The Knockturnal: Do you have a different outlook on fertility after this film?
Desmin Borges: I definitely do. I had very little personal interaction with IVF in whole. My wife and myself had our first baby two and a half years ago now, our means to the end wasn’t the same as what Kathryn and Paul’s character go through but it definitely opened up my eyes to the entire world of what that could be like. And just giving an introduction to the medical process which I didn’t realize was unfortunately so stagnant. You’re just more of a number than a person sometimes when all you’re trying to do is just create a person. It’s a weird juxtaposition in the end.
The film is now streaming on Netflix.