|Please Give (USA; 90 min.)
directed by: Nicole Holofcener
starring: Catherine Keener; Rebecca Hall; Oliver Platt; Amanda Peet; Sarah Steele
Michael says: "Nicole Holofcener’s films, which explore relationships, most often between women; friends, sisters, mothers and daughters, have yet to let me down. From her spare, hilarious debut, WALKING AND TALKING, to her most recent, just-released PLEASE GIVE, Holofcener and her on-screen alter-ego, Catherine Keener, know how to keep it real and provide the laughs. Her films are adult comedies, often somewhat short on plot, but so strong in character and human nature that even when the characters are somewhat unlikable, you enjoy spending time with them.
"Such is the case in PLEASE GIVE, which focuses on Kate (Keener) and Alex (Oliver Platt), a couple with a teenaged daughter who run a second-hand furniture store in Manhattan. They get their finds from the children of the elderly who have recently died, which causes Kate endless guilt which she tries to assuage by giving money to the homeless people on her street. She longs for something more meaningful, but her attempts to volunteer at various organizations just make things worse. To exacerbate things, Kate and Alex have purchased the apartment next door to theirs, in the hopes of eventually expanding and remodeling their own home. Problem is, the apartment’s sole occupant is a cantankerous, elderly woman whose eventual passing is the only thing standing in the way of their decorating plans. This makes for an uncomfortable relationship which extends to the woman’s granddaughters, Rebecca (Rebecca Hall) and Mary (Amanda Peet).
"What happens in the movie is almost secondary to the beautifully constructed characters. Kate struggles with her daughter Abby, whose concerns are focused on the $100+ designer jeans she wants, and the acne she struggles with that attacks her self-esteem. Her endless attempts to sooth her guilt and her lethargic relationship with her husband, who is also her business partner are also important points of struggle. At the same time we get to know Rebecca, who is devoted to her grandmother, shares an apartment with her rather abrasive sister, and befriends a woman she meets at her job as a mammogram technician. She’s single and a little awkward, but when her new friend sets her up with her son, she starts to explore a different connection.
"The performances are all outstanding. Keener has never been warmer, even as she embodies a character even more off-putting than usual. Hall is terrific as the awkward Rebecca. She feels like lots of people who I know and who struggle with the social interactions that we are faced with over and over every day. Peet is hilarious as the bitchy Mary, who’s stalking her ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend, and growing a little too close to Alex. There’s a moment near the end of the film when Mary confronts her ex’s ladyfriend that’s funny, embarrassing and courageous at the same time. The performers are ably assisted by Holofcener’s smart, funny, and emotional screenplay. Her skill at making characters that are real, flawed, and funny just continues to grow. She’s an assured director as well, who’s got great comedic timing, and uses Manhattan to marvelous effect – not the Manhattan recognizable to tourists, but the city that those who live in it will immediately recognize and feel comfortable with.
"PLEASE GIVE seems to be a difficult film to market, but it’s one that I think many people would enjoy, so I encourage you to take the time to get to the Coolidge Corner Theatre (if you’re in Boston) and catch it before it leaves. 5 cats"
|Diane says: "Oh, no! I fell for it again: I saw Kevin Corrigan's name attached to this movie and his role turns out to be tiny (not to mention weak). But I would have wanted to see Nicole Holofcener's latest anyway, after the pleasures of WALKING AND TALKING and LOVELY AND AMAZING. Five women in adolescence, young adulthood, middle age, and senescence buck against each other, and show how altruism and generosity can manifest themselves, or not. Strengths: fresh dialogue, realistic characters, perfs (I found Ann Guilbert of 'The Dick Van Dyke Show' to be a delightful aging crank). Weakness: doesn't dig deep enough into the theme. A light pleasure. 3 cats.|