Here is one of those movies that will make you want to go straight out and rent the rest of the writer-director's work. It will make you excited at the prospect of mining Nicole Holofcener's whole back catalogue, and wonder why you never took notice of her name before.
The thing is, she makes the kind of films that might have passed you by, as they did me, mostly because they sound like earnest, pseudo-intelligent weepies for women who want to bond and cry over the luxurious yet miserable lives of beautiful, sad accountants and lawyers. They have titles that suggest as much, like Friends with Money and Lovely and Amazing. These sound like movies that dupe people into thinking they are good, but really, they're not. They seem shifty and suspicious. Plus Holofcener's last film, Friends with Money, starred Jennifer Aniston, which in itself might be enough to put off some discerning moviegoers, even if it did also star Catherine Keener and Frances McDormand, it was Aniston's name that stood out and marked the movie with bad mojo.
Please Give stars Amanda Peet who was in, well, 2012 , The X-Files movie and one of Zach Braff's humorless follow-ups to Garden State. Yet she is as good as the rest of the cast, which includes Catherine Keener again, and Woody Allen favorite Rebecca Hall. Peet plays the too-tanned, bitchy, drunken sister to Hall's meek introvert while Keener and her husband are antique dealers who live next door to the sisters' grandmother. They've bought the apartment and are waiting for the old lady to pass on so that they can expand. The couple buys furniture for their store from "the children of dead people" as they describe it, buying cheap and selling for big profits, a fact that provokes in Keener's Kate a nagging guilt that has her handing $20 bills to the homeless while denying her teenage daughter expensive jeans.
This is a film about how terrible the affluent feel about being rich, which on paper admittedly appears annoying. But that strand is interestingly woven into a sensitive, thoughtful exploration of how this ensemble of characters, and then how we all, deal with growing old. One sister spends her days diagnosing women with breast cancer, the other giving chemical peel facials to take away wrinkles.
Everyone is obsessed with getting out of the city and seeing the fall leaves in upstate New York. In a sense, Please Give has the tone of Charlie Kaufman's Synecdoche, New York - lyrical and melancholy - but creates a knot of relationships that prove somewhat similar to the work of Woody Allen. It makes you think about all the things that movies are meant to help you forget. Yet, as the somber shadow passed over, I was left feeling far more of a thrill of grimy reality than gained from the kind of film I had first thought this would be.
Directed and written by
Starring Catherine Keener, Rebecca Hall, Amanda Peet