Monday, 30 August 2010
FILM REVIEW: PLEASE GIVE
Middle class guilt isn’t a subject given much attention in films, certainly not mainstream ones lest they be Woody Allen’s. Guilt isn’t sexy nor is it funny, at least not on paper. But some directors, like Allen, know where the joke lies. Writer-director Nicole Holofcener may not be going for the funny bone outright with her new film, Please Give, but she’s well aware of the inherent humour in the anxieties of the well-to-do, anxious for doing well.
Kate (ever-reliable Catherine Keener and star of each of Holofcener’s films) runs a New York antique furniture store with her husband, Alex (Oliver Platt). They procure their stock from deceased estates, usually snapping up items for a bargain and selling them on for a song. The pair live in a nice apartment but have bought the one next door, planning to expand once the occupant departs, literally.
That neighbour is a crotchety old woman named Andra (Anne Morgan Guilbert, unrecognisable from her most famous role, that of Granma Yetta on TV’s The Nanny), whose only real connection to the outside world (not surprisingly she’s driven everyone else away - or to their grave) are her granddaughters, Mary (Amanda Peet) and Rebecca (Rebecca Hall), the latter devoting much of her time to Andra’s welfare; Mary is the self obsessed sister who could care less if the grandmother who raised her dies.
The sisters’ and Kate and Alex’s lives become uncomfortably entwined following a dinner the couple host to celebrate Andra’s birthday, with Holofcener broadening her focus to reveal more about Mary and Alex having focussed primarily on Rebecca and Kate up to this point. But they remain central: Rebecca as she juggles the demands of her grandmother with her own job and the beginnings of a new romance, and Kate as she struggles with the guilt she feels for the comfortable life her business has afforded her. Kate wants to do more than write a cheque but doesn't have the emotional fortitude to do so.
That may not sound like much of a dilemma or a driving force for either drama or comedy, and admittedly it's slight though enjoyable. But Holofcener gets strong performances from her cast, especially Keener and Hall.