Monday, 21 June 2010

[351] Please Give (2010) Review

Today I saw Toy Story 3, and thought it was fine. Certainly not a masterpiece, but fun. Of course, everyone is lauding it to high heaven. So yet again I feel out-of-step with the consensus. Another summer swallowing my words when people gush about a film I only half-liked.

Please Give is another flick garnering a lot of critical praise - and I just don't see it. It's good, intelligent, funny in places and features some terrific performances - but I don't see the complexity or unique touches that most are highlighting. Oh well, I'll be crying in the corner if you need me.

One of the plotlines of Please Give, writer-director Nicole Holofcener's gentle drama about charity, family and New York life, resolves with a mother (Catherine Keener) buying her daughter (Sarah Steele) a $200 pair of jeans. This is played with tenderness, with the exchange of gratitude ringing out as the credits roll. Such a sense of the upper middle class economic bubble helps complicate Please Give's appeal, as it is, for the most part, an intelligent, witty musing on urban living.

Opening with a peppy montage of mammograms, the film initially focuses on Rebecca (Rebecca Hall), a medical assistant who seems slightly at odds with her colleagues and surroundings. She is awkward around her workmates, who all seem obsessed with watching Autumn encroach on upstate forests, but finds solace in caring for her elderly grandmother, Andra (Ann Morgan Guilbert). However, before long, the film opens up into more ensemble-based territory, as we are introduced to the old lady's neighbours, the aforementioned mother, Kate, and daughter, Abby, and the plump but charming father, Alex (Oliver Platt, who else?).

Kate and Alex run an antique furniture shop, which they stock with pieces bought from grieving families, essentially fleecing the recently deceased and profiting from tactical price gouging. It is pure capitalism, as is their purchase of their elderly neighbour's apartment, with the view to expanding their own little kingdom.

Please Give mostly flounders between the two poles of moneyed New York entertainment, half bearing the consumerism and opulence of
Sex And The City, and half mounting a neurotic broadside on its educated kooks as seen in the best of Woody Allen. Holofcener seems to pitch for both, offering something accessible, bright, yet intelligent and thought-provoking. At times, this ambition shines through, as the film indulges in intimate humour between the characters, or cheeky asides seek to bring out the absurd elements of city life.

Read the full review here.

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