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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

'Please Give' In And Watch This Dark Comedy

Please Give: 4 out of 5

Kate: I'm not spending U$ 200 on a pair of jeans for my teenage daughter when there are '45' homeless people living...
Abby: What does that have to do with anything? They don't want jeans!  

Please Give is the type of comedy art house comedy that features a collection of good actors all given great dialogue to play off of with each other.  It can be a little alienating for some, as the comedy has the kind of sharp edge/awkward nature that can put some people off; however, the film as a whole is a nice study about two different families.  The plot is not uneventful, but it does present fairly ordinary situations brought to the length of a full feature.  I found that the film may not have had immensely likable characters, but for the most part it worked well at delivering a solid comedic drama.


Catherine Keener and Oliver Platt star as Kate and Alex, a married couple, living in New York, with their teenage daughter Abby (Sarah Steele).  Kate and Alex manage a retro-furniture business, where they sell off the furniture that they have purchased from the recently deceased.  In their apartment building, a cranky 91-year old grandmother, Andra (Ann Guilbert), lives next door.  Andra is occasionally taken care of by her granddaughters, the timid Rebecca (Rebecca Hall), who works as a mammogram technician; and the beauty obsessed Mary (Amanda Peet), who works as a cosmetologist.


We soon learn the basic rundown of the situation.  Kate and Alex are essentially awaiting the death of Andra, which will then enable them to combine her apartment with theirs, for greater space.  This drive basically keeps all of the characters together, but there is more.  While Kate escalates the price of the furniture she finds, she also wishes to do more for society, which includes giving to the homeless and attempting to volunteer.  Alex has no qualms with the business, but does seem a little bored with his marriage.  Abby is a bit chubby, but still wishes to possess expensive jeans, while continuing to question her mom's random selflessness.  Mary has recently been dumped and obsesses over her tan.  And finally, Rebecca seems to be the most normal, despite the others tending to single her out, as she just wants to find simple companionship and be a decent human being.


The best aspect in this movie, was what I found to be such a natural touch to all of the characters.  I did not feel I needed to warm to anyone in this film, whether I liked the character (personality-wise) or not.  All of the actors just seemed perfectly comfortable in the roles they have been given, which led to a pretty easy viewing experience, despite some of the sharp-tongued lines some of these character deliver to one another.  While not as good of a film, I found a lot of the verbal sparring to be akin to a film like The Kids Are All Right, which is a very good thing in my eyes.

The actors all do good work here.  Rebecca Hall would, I guess, go down as the straight character of this ensemble, tolerating all of the other people in this film, but never betraying her demeanor, which can be falsely looked at as cold, but knowing her suggests something more sincere.  Oliver Platt is always a fun actor to have around, and his chemistry with the other women in this film does nothing to suggest that he'll every be done playing that type.  Peet is the closest to being very dislikable, but even she has a few moments that suggest more to her character.  Keener is given the trickiest role, as we are supposed to acknowledge that she is both profiting off of death in a way, but still attempt to find something in what it is that she thinks she is doing, when it comes to the random acts of kindness that she strives for.


Writer/Director Nicole Holofcener does some very good work at setting up a number of scenarios that all pay off well and appropriately.  I never felt short changed with the way this film played out, in terms of what was set up and eventually delivered on.  While the film did not reach a directorial level more withstanding, I could certainly see a lot of talent being delivered on in all of the character actions that were taking place.

Even catching this film after it received much of its acclaim, I was not disappointed.  It falls into the kind of appealing art house territory that I can enjoy, despite moments that could suggest otherwise.  I can see some seeing a bit of pretentiousness in how some of it is handled, but even the few uneven moments did not hold me back from really enjoying this film.

Mary: But you're not a doctor...
Rebecca: No... I'm not a doctor. But neither you are.
Mary: I never said I was. 

 

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