Film Review: Please Give

Please Give

(2010) USA, 90 mins

Director: Nicole Holofcener | Cast: Catherine Keener, Oliver Platt, Rebecca Hall, Amanda Peet, Ann Guilbert, Sarah Steele |Rating: 2.5/5

In New York City, a husband and wife butt heads with the granddaughters of the elderly woman who lives in an apartment the couple owns.

This is PLEASE GIVE’s official synopsis, which one would usually feel was an inadequate description, however having seen the film I would say that it’s just about right. PLEASE GIVE doesn’t have a strong story or narrative drive. Instead it meanders through the lives of its characters. Catherine Keener’s Kate is, by most standards, a fortunate person. She is middle class, married to Alex (Platt) and has a teenage daughter Abby (Steele) as well a running a successful business selling second-hand furniture mostly bought from deceased estates. However she feels guilt about her good fortune and compulsively gives money to the homeless, much to her child’s disgust.

They live next door to an elderly woman Andra (Guilbert) who is looked after by her granddaughters, the selfless Rebecca (Hall) and the tightly-wound Mary (Peet). Rebecca works as a radiologist’s assistant and Mary is a skin-care specialist. The granddaughters live together and have a relationship of low-level sibling bickering.

Kate and her husband own Andra’s flat and this is the cause of much awkardness. All concerned are very aware that the couple are waiting for the old woman to die so they can knock through the walls and expand their apartment. There are a couple of further points that make up the loose plot of the film, but these are small events with no serious effect on the lives of these New Yorkers whose lives have somehow bumped together.

Director Nicole Holofcener’s PLEASE GIVE is like her LOVELY AND AMAZING and FRIENDS WITH MONEY, a character-based tale with fine performances from excellent actors. And if that sounds like I’m damning this film with faint praise, then you would be correct.

I can’t fault the excellence and believability of the characters and the moments they reveal here. It felt very truthful, but for this reviewer not engaging. Why was Kate so thoroughly miserable? She seems to be having an existential crisis, but her life is blessed. Nothing is revealed that helps an audience see below the surface of her distress. This also has the unfortunate side effect of making Kate the least interesting of the entire ensemble. Keener has so much to offer in the right role that this one doesn’t seem to make the best use of her considerable talents.

At times, PLEASE GIVE reminded me of another recent American indie, Noah Baumbach’s GREENBERG which was also a small film composed of small moments. Both movies have a wayward, slice-of-life feel, but I found GREENBERG the more satisfying experience.

Overall, I can’t recommend PLEASE GIVE because I believe it simply doesn’t say enough and is therefore forgettable, however there are reports that some Holofcener fans are calling this film her strongest to date. Which prompts me to end with a quote from “Honest Abe” Lincoln, “People who like this sort of thing will find this the sort of thing they like.”

PLEASE GIVE opens in Australia on September 9, 2010

NB: This review can also be found at AccessReel.com

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1 Comment

  1. Hm. Not my cuppa by the sounds of things. Thanks for the heads up. Would like to have seen more use of WordPress’ blockquote tag – especially when quoting the actual synopsis (it was hard to see where your editorial began and ended) and maybe you could use a header here and there to break up the text a bit. Give us a breather. The Sexy Bookmarks plugin is marginally better than the (social) plug-in you have employed here. Other than those minor syntactical gripes, a nice summary of what sounds like a waste of $18. I very luckily won some tickets to see some Russian films this w/e, so Justin has been learning Russian online. It really suits her. Me in a couple – who’d have thought? Carry on. … and yes, I know – it’s not all about me. My ego has yet to completely dissolve. I still need to interface with mankind.

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