Please Give

Hey, where did you get this stuff?

I’m never going to see a movie with a montage of women getting mammograms ever again.  If someone, for some bizarre reason, asks me to accompany them to get a mammogram–and I don’t care if she’s Ann Hathaway–I ain’t goin’.  If you look at anything clinically for more than two minutes, the power of taboo is broken and the boob taboo must be maintained if all else is lost.

Kate (Catherine Keener) and Alex (Oliver Platt) run a furniture/nit-knack shop with mid-century pieces bought from relatives of the newly-deceased.  Kate has some serious guilt from that because the relatives have no idea of their value.  Rebecca (Rebecca Hall) is a lonely radiology technician who takes care of her incredibly New York-rude grandmother, Andra (Ann Morgan Guilbert).  Rebecca’s sister, Mary (Amanda Peet), will occasionally ‘help,’ but the fact that she hates her grandmother and is an ice-cold harpy, that’s pretty rare.  **Social Comment: If you look up the word “bitch” in the online thesaurus, there’s an entry on “lady.”   I think we should all sit and have a nice long think about that.**  Kate and Alex have a young daughter, Abby (Sarah Steele), who’s got some acne and mommy issues.  They all interact.

Please Give (2010), written and directed by Nicole Holofcener, is a very well-focused movie.  By focused, I mean that she’s put together a film that doesn’t try to go too far outside the immediate characters’ universe.  That’s not to call it limited.  Rather, it succeeds exactly where I thought Our Idiot Brother (2011) failed.  We look into each character’s mind (from the outside only) for a decent length of time.  No one is two dimensional.

You can do that when everyone is sad in one way or another.  [Beware gigantic over-generalization approaching.]  And everyone worth watching is sad in one way or another.  In a drama, anyway.  In a broad comedy or an action movie, you can have people without holes–well, I guess that depends on the action movie–but that’s because we aren’t particularly interested in character.

Here, we’e got a comedy that doubles as a drama.

Every performance in here is good-to-great.  I’ve liked Rebecca Hall since I saw Starter for 10 (2006).  Oh, no, she was in Dorian Gray (2009), which apparently has an explosion in it and therefore I will never see it.  (That really only makes sense if you’ve read The Picture of Dorian Gray (1890), which you should do.  Immediately.)  Anyway, she’s terrific in this.  She doesn’t overreach on emotions and that’s an achievement.

Amanda Peet is completely ruthless in this role and doesn’t flinch for a second.  Since The Whole Nine Yards (2000), she’s been clawing her way back into my list of solid actresses.  Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip (2006-07) did most of that work for her.  This is just another feather in her cap.

Too avoid making this too boring, I’ll just say Platt, Guilbert, and Steele were very good as well.  Keener does too, but I find her character get’s far more attention than was her due.  I say this because her central emotion, guilt, wears thin.  It isn’t so much to be annoying or distracting, but I think the balance isn’t quite right.

There’s one minor gap.  And it is a minor one.  Everybody gets a look into what really is hurting inside, except for Rebecca.  Perhaps it’s because most of her action comes towards the beginning and everyone else’s emotional climax is towards the end that I minimize those moments.  But, it’s an instinct and that’s always worth vocalizing–or verbalizing.

Hey, it’s Sarah Vowell!

To make my reviews seem interesting, I generally point out the negatives more than the positives.  Probably because it’s funnier to repeat “this sucked, this sucked, this sucked” than “this was good, that was fine, oh I quite liked.”  So don’t mistake me.  The movie was great.  I recommend it to anyone.  You’re world will not be rocked, but you will spend a wonderful and funny hour and a half.  Buy it, if you’ve got a very disposable income.  Rent/borrow it if you don’t.

A word on the title.  I’ve seen people discuss and recommend titles before and I generally think whatever they have to say is swill.  That said, I think Please Give doesn’t really get to what the movie is about.  If I were to suggest a title, it would be Dead People’s Things.  That’s not very good either.

About Prof. Ratigan

A semi-lawyer and amateur enthusiast.
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