Sunday, July 04, 2010

Please Give

Today I saw Please Give, starring Catherine Keener and Rebecca Hall.

If you're not prepared to view life as it is sometimes lived, you probably want to stay away from Nicole Holofcener films such as this. I, for one, happen to love the fact that this writer/director creates characters who feel like real, breathing human beings, but I can see how they may depress others.

The subjects of this indie are neighbors. Kate (Keener) and Alex (Oliver Platt) are a married couple who own a vintage furniture business as they raise their only child, teenage Abby (Sarah Steele). Next door is 91-year-old Andra (Ann Morgan Guilbert), a miserable aging coot who is looked upon by her granddaughters. Rebecca (Hall) is the responsible, patient radiologist that acts compassionately no matter how badly her grandmother treats her; Mary (Amanda Peet) is the sexy, shallow spa worker who only visits Andra when forced.

Kate has a habit of giving money to strangers because she feels so guilty about her business. She and Alex aren't involved in any illegal activity, but they have been known to take advantage of families of the recently deceased who have valuable furniture and don't realize its worth.

Everyone in this film is searching for something: Abby desires the perfect jeans to offset her battle with acne; Kate wants a charitable cause to fill the hole in her heart; Alex seeks the excitement missing from his marriage; Rebecca would like a boyfriend; Mary wants answers as to why a muscle-heavy saleslady stole her man; Grandma wants her shopping granddaughters to use her carefully clipped coupons. Please, give.

The lives of these neighbors are intertwined as they offer the odd olive branch, but of course not everything works out for the best. As in reality, there are lies, deceptions, awkward silences and guilty consciences as a result of the bad decisions they make.

What I liked about this film (and its entire stellar cast) was that none of the characters were people who were difficult to relate to. Even those making choices we hope we wouldn't make didn't seem like horrible people—they were just wounded.

There's something life-affirming about watching people struggle and then advance past whatever is troubling them. Please Give reminds us that life isn't simple for anyone.


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