Directed by Nicole Holofcener
Life is full of giving and taking—and in Please Give, the characters take their privilege and give their guilt. Amid the rotating ensemble of damaged souls is Kate (writer-director Nicole Holofcener's BFF Catherine Kenner), a wealthy, ethically ambiguous antiques dealer who is postured as the film's centerpiece of modern malaise. Plagued by the contemporary cosmopolitan condition of "West Village person's burden," Kate—who is quick to hand $20 to a homeless person—can't help but buy her 90-year-old neighbor's apartment in hopes of extending her own, and yet also feel horrible for the desire to see the old lady kick the bucket promptly. Enter the neighbor's granddaughters Rebecca (Rebecca Hall) and Mary (Amanda Peet). Rebecca is modest and Mary is brash but both, as is everyone in the film, are brutally honest and anxiety-ridden.
Please Give marks the second New York City-set film from screenwriter/director Nicole Holofcener, after her pleasantly neurotic first feature Walking and Talking. Although Holofcener has directed a few episodes of Sex and the City, her Please Give screenplay directly challenges the materialistic fantasy Carrie and Co. blithely indulge in. Holofcener cleverly eschews an insular Manhattan with a subtle view on voyeurism, whether it's a character looking out her window at a rooftop party, or following an ex's current beau. The screenplay does, however, represent the best and the worst of Holofcener's cinematic sensibility.
In exploring the contradictions in life, she reveals the paradoxes in her own filmmaking. More a keen observer than filmmaker, Holofcener is brilliant at establishing characters yet poor at developing them; her strong understanding of personality is often undermined by her need to overtly telegraph themes. Kate, Rebecca and Mary don't become pure ciphers but occasionally they sure feel like a collection of thematic affectations rather than flesh and boiling blood. Does Holofcener was to be an authentic writer or a provocateur? Thankfully, there's only one lame conceit-of-a-character: Kate's oafish, conscience-free husband (Oliver Platt) who—for those not enthralled by Holofcener's confrontational dialogue concerning White People with Problems—will seem oddly refreshing. The plausible, if oxymoronic, characters essentially sum up Holofcener's snapshot filmmaking approach: at once delicately sensitive and at times frustratingly callous.
Opens April 30