Movie Review: Please Give

June 19, 2010

Catherine Keener and Oliver Platt co-star



Boy, you think living in San Luis Obispo is expensive, try New York City real estate. Kate (Catherine Keener) and Alex (Oliver Platt) have already bought the apartment of their 91-year-old next door neighbor Andra (Ann Guiulbert) and they’re essentially waiting for her to die. Then they can knock down a few walls, expand their own tiny apartment, and finally get that master bedroom. If only Andra would die.

This is the season of the popcorn blockbuster, with heavy emphasis on 3-D and a target audience of teens, so it’s at once lovely and amazing to find a summer movie aimed at–dare we say it–an older, more thoughtful, audience.

Welcome to Please Give, the latest offering from writer-director Nicole Holofcener, whose previous efforts include “Friends with Money” and “Lovely and Amazing.” Holofcener has a gift for taking ordinary situations, especially those involving women, and having them resonate with audiences.

Kate and Alex run a vintage antique store, meaning they troll the apartments of people who have died, buy up their old furniture, turn around and sell it for a nice profit. They seem happy on the surface, but we discover that each is looking for something more fulfilling than what they have.

Rebecca Hall and Amanda Peet

Meanwhile, Andra is coddled by one loving granddaughter (Rebecca Hall) and a second granddaughter (Amanda Peet) who openly belittles and despises her. The two sisters are survivors of terrible teenage trauma and each copes in a different way. They both cross paths with Kate and Alex as the story unfolds. One sister changes for the better; it is doubtful that the other will ever change.

The title of the movie comes from Kate’s obsession with helping the homeless people in her neighborhood. She constantly shoves money in their hands, much to the bewilderment of her teen daughter Abby (Sarah Steele) who can’t understand why Mom won’t spend the money on $200 jeans for her instead.

I would watch Catherine Keener in almost anything–I’ve been a huge fan for years. Rebecca Hall, who previously shined in Woody Allen’s “Vicky Christina Barcelona,” is quickly becoming a favorite. I don’t know where Holofcener found Ann Guilbert, but the aging actress seizes her role with gusto and pretty much steals every scene she’s in.

Please Give is a nice blend of comedy and drama, a reminder that nobody’s perfect, and that we’re all struggling in these uncertain economic times. I’ve seen parts of this movie before in other films, but I ended up caring about what happened to the characters and I’d easily see this again.

Besides, being from the East Coast originally, it’s hard to knock a movie where the autumn foliage in upstate New York plays a supporting role.

This is my advice: Please See, Please Give.

Please Give (comedy-drama), playing exclusively at the Fremont Theaters, Monterey Street, San Luis Obispo. Rated PG-13. Running time: 91 minutes.

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hmmm… Toy Story 3