Tuesday, May 4, 2010


Directed by Nicole Holofcener.

Kate (Catherine Keener) lives with her husband, Alex (Oliver Platt), and teenage daughter, Abby (Sarah Steele), in a nice Manhattan apartment. She and Alex search for recently bereaved people so that they could buy the deceased’s furniture to sell at their vintage furniture store for marked-up prices. On top of that they, bought the apartment of their elderly next door neighbor, Andra (Ann Morgan Guilbert), so they hope that she will pass away soon so that they’ll be able to expand their current apartment into hers. Rebecca (Rebecca Hall), one of Andra’s granddaughters, works as a radiologists and spends her time taking care of Andra. Amanda Peet plays Rebecca’s older sister, Mary, who works at a massage parlor. Everyone has their own problems they’re dealing with. Kate feels guilty about her wealth, so she gives a homeless man $20 and refuses to let her daughter buy expensive jeans. Alex yields to temptation by cheating on his wife upon receiving a massage from Mary at the spa. Let’s just say for now that he’s happy to see her in more ways than one as he lays on his back on the massage table. Rebecca struggles to deal with her stubborn grandmother while a romance blossoms between her and Eugene (Thomas Ian Nicholas), the grandson of one of her clients who sets her up with him. Mary stalks the girlfriend of her ex-boyfriend probably out of insecurity and jealousy. Finally, Abby feels ashamed and embarrassed of her zits, especially a big one on her nose, and desperately wants to change her wardrobe by purchasing very expensive jeans. Given so many characters and intersecting subplots, you would think that the film would be close to 3 hours long. Each character’s problems could easy be fleshed upon in an entirely separate film. Unfortunately, the screenplay by writer/director Nicole Holofcener gyrates very unevenly and too often between drama, comedy and romance to the extent that it doesn’t latch onto the right tone and, most importantly, it doesn’t find the right balance between those three genres. As such, it suffers from a sort of identity crisis because it often meanders while never quite succeeding in being truly engrossing/heartfelt as a drama and romance or funny and smart as a comedy. Holofcener populates the film with so many characters and never lets them breathe so that you can get to know them better and truly care about them, so you’ll find them remaining somewhat emotionally distant from you. What keeps Please Give afloat are the amusing moments that range from witty to dry humor, and, on top of that, the engaging performances, particularly by Rebecca Hall who shines with charisma and warmth as Rebecca, help to keep you marginally engaged as well. At a running time of 1 hour and 30 minutes, Please Give manages to be fleetingly amusing, charming and harmless with a terrific cast, but often meanders, lacks bite, and unevenly juggles comedy, drama and romance.
Number of times I checked my watch: 3
Released by Sony Pictures Classics.
Opens at City Cinemas 1,2, 3, Regal Union Square 14 and AMC/Loews Lincoln Square.

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