Jan 29, 2015

Review: Please Give (2010)

Nicole Holofcener is well-known in the industry for her ability to treat female characters with the respect that they don't usually get in Hollywood movies. Her female characters aren't just the wife or girlfriend of a male character and they aren't just bags of neuroses either. They have their own motivations and their own personal stories. It's a refreshing take when we're all so used to one-dimensional female characters who don't usually impact the story all that much.

Please Give is the fourth film that Catherine Keener has starred in out of the five Holofcener has written and directed so far. That's quite the long partnership and a good one at that. Keener really strikes me as the kind of person you'd run into in real life, which makes her character in Please Give all the more believable. Enough Said was Holofcener's most recent film and I hope that doesn't mean the end of her partnership with Catherine Keener. After all, the two go together like chocolate and peanut butter.

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Genre: comedy, drama
Directed by: Nicole Holofcener
Produced by: Anthony Bregman, Caroline Jaczko, Stefanie Azpiazu
Written by: Nicole Holofcener
Music by: Tim LeFebvre, Marcelo Zarvos
Running time: 90 minutes
Production company: Sony Pictures Classics, Likely Story, Feelin' Guilty
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Classics, Mongrel Media, Village Roadshow Entertainment, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $3,000,000
Box office: $4,313,085 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Catherine Keener, Oliver Platt, Ann Morgan Guilbert, Amanda Peet, Rebecca Hall, Elizabeth Keener, Sarah Steele, Elise Ivy, Josh Pais, Griffin Frazen, Reggie Austin, Paul Sparks

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Synopsis


Kate (Catherine Keener) and Alex (Oliver Platt) live in New York City and operate an antique furniture store. Along with their daughter Abby (Sarah Steele), they live in an apartment that they plan on expanding once their old next door neighbour Andra (Ann Morgan Guilbert) dies. Cared for by her granddaughter Rebecca (Rebecca Hall), she's deaf, she's whines and she's quick to offer disparaging comments to just about everyone. Still, Kate can't help but feel guilty about the whole thing.

Review


Please Give is said to be a black comedy and there definitely is a fair amount of that type of humour when it comes to Andra and her situation. It's not the kind that's in your face like a lot of black comedy seems to be and I like it. With good writing and good timing from its actors, PG delivers comedy no problem.

Comedy isn't the main aspect of Please Give that interests me though. What I especially like is how Holofcener treats all of her characters. Everyone has something going on and none of it is superficial in any way. All the stories feel quite real-life as well and they aren't overly rosy either which is nice. There can be some pretty awkward moments in life and Please Give is pretty generous with those as well.

Take Catherine Keener's Kate for example who's the most interesting. She makes a pretty good living from her business, but she can't help but feel guilty about it. The furniture comes from dead people which she buys from their children or their grandchildren depending on the situation. It's definitely a bit of a weird situation and she feels really bad when customers ask her where she got the furniture from. She also feels like she's stealing from from the people she buys off of since she's making a profit off their backs.

With all this guilt, Kate tries to do what she can. She constantly gives to homeless people on the street. Anything from money, food or even makeup. She also tries to volunteer her time when she can for the elderly or the handicapped. Even volunteering makes her feel guilty because of her mental and physical state compared to those she's helping. Amazing how one can feel so much guilt right?

All the other characters face their own problems as well and it's easy to just sink your teeth in and watch as it all unfolds. There are these lovely and intimate "human moments" as well that are just there to tell you that despite all the negativity around us, there are always some positives somewhere and some human connections to be had. We just have to look for them.

Performances are solid all around, but I suppose Ann Morgan Guilbert as the mean old lady deserves a special mention. She's quite funny with her "directness" and Guilbert shows off some pretty strong delivery skills. I also really liked Rebecca Hall as the ever patient Rebecca as well.

Please Give is a pleasant viewing experience that puts its characters at the forefront. Watching them all make their way through life the best they can is interesting and it helps that it all feels realistic and genuine. Nicole Holofcener doesn't disappoint when it comes to utilizing her many female characters properly. I can only hope that she continues her unique brand of film making in the future.

Rating


7/10