Written & Directed by Nicole Holofcener
Where & When: Arclight Cinemas Hollywood, CA. May 4, 2010 4:00PM
"Please Give" is only the fourth film from writer/director, Nicole Holofcener which is a terrible shame because she is one of the great, under appreciated talents making films today. I'm sure if she were a man, she would have an easier time getting her films made and this would be at least her tenth feature but why complain when she has brought to the world another wonderful, darkly comic, female focused film.
Catherine Keener, who has been in all of Ms Holofcener's films, plays Kate, a guilt ridden mother and wife who is struggling to cope with all that she has while knowing that so many others in the world are trying to get by with so little. Some of her solutions to this problem is to habitually give money to homeless people on the street and by trying to volunteer her time helping others in need but despite all of this, she still doesn't really feel any better.
Kate owns an upscale used furniture shop that she runs with her husband, Alex (Oliver Platt). They get some of the furniture by visiting the homes of recently deceased people and negotiating a low price for their furnishings so they can re-sell the items for a huge profit, all in the name of trying to help out the grieving relatives.
Abby (Sarah Steele) is their daughter and she is quite a handful. She is sullen, combative, and selfish, so she behaves like your typical teenager. She wants her mother to buy her a two hundred dollar pair of jeans but Kate cannot rationalize spending that kind of money on her daughter when she could give that money to homeless strangers.
Kate and Alex bought the unit next door to them so they can expand their closet and create a new master bedroom but it is currently occupied by the seller, Andra (Ann Guilbert). She sold her unit to them with the condition that they can take the unit after she passes away. She is a cantankerous old woman who says whatever crosses her mind. Andra doesn't seem like she is going anywhere anytime soon, much to the disappointment of Kate and Alex.
Andra has two granddaughters, Rebecca, (Rebecca Hall) a sweet girl who comes by every day to check in on her grandmother and gets her whatever she needs while Mary (Amanda Peet), who is caustic and very hostile to Andra, does the bare minimum to help out.
Kate feels they should try and be friendly to their neighbor so she invites Andra and her granddaughters to their home for dinner. The dinner is uncomfortable and awkward but everyone get to know and understand each other a little better as friendships and relationships develop in ways that are unexpected and moving.
That's pretty much the film. There's not much of a plot but it is an interesting character study. These people are sad, funny, harsh, warm and touching and you can relate to all of these feelings that they go through. The writing is sharp, clever and get right to the heart of the matter.
Ms Keener has always been a great talent and some of her best work has been in Ms Holofcener's films and that certainly includes this one. I have never been much of a fan of Ms Peet's but I have to be honest and say she was good in this and very funny. I was also impressed by Ms Steele and most especially by Ms Hall, who was also wonderful in "Vicky Christina Barcelona" (2008), as she gives a charming and genuine performance. Lois Smith and Thomas Ian Nicholas as a mother and son who change Rebecca's life make a nice impression, so overall, this is a great ensemble.
Please go see "Please Give" and if you enjoy it and are unfamiliar with Ms Holofcener's previous films, then you should go and rent "Walking & Talking" (1996), "Lovely & Amazing" (2001) , and "Friends With Money" (2006).