Friday, May 14, 2010

Please Give

Nicole Holofcener has done something very good with "Please Give," a film that sometimes gives out perhaps cliched and flawed mannerisms. She's backed them with superb characters, ones that I was very engaged in. Not a lot happens in this film, which may lead some to call it "boring" like Rex Reed did, which it definitely isn't as a whole. It's very episodic, and I think it works and works itself out (as I remember, the beginning isn't stellar). The interesting lighting and cinematography when the characters walk down the street is done well (by Yaron Orbach), too.

Holofcener (whose other works I haven't seen) is said to chronicle "upper middle-class worries" or something of the like. That's the name of the game here. Kate (Catherine Keener) and Alex (Oliver Platt) are well-to-do owners of (according to my friend) a "mid-century modern" vintage store. They talk in the thousands on a regular basis. They get a lot of stuff from, as Alex quips, "the children of dead people." Kate, quite the humanitarian, feels guilt for this and other transactions she makes to get her store in order. She relieves this by tipping every homeless person she sees $20. Oddly enough, when the prospect comes up of expanding her house to where a deceased person used to live, she seems okay with herself.

Alex is impulsive, and tired of worrying and being a "partner" to Kate in everything. When the two hold a birthday party for the 91-year-old, cranky Andra (Ann Guilbert) who lives next door, he meets Mary (Amanda Peet), who's a spa worker who he flirts with and then sleeps with and also Andra's granddaughter. (Who would cheat on Catherine Keener, though?) We meet Mary before, and we realize she's a cynical, seriously mean person when in discourse with her sister, nice, quiet Rebecca (Rebecca Hall), a radiologist (and the source of a "bizarre," as my friend would say, opening montage of breasts having mammograms performed on them).

Add to this mix Abby (Sarah Steele), Kate and Alex's somewhat misguided teenage daughter. She obsesses over buying a $200+ pair of jeans, which seems a little excessive, considering that they look practically the same as the ones that Abby thinks suck really bad. She also looks up to Mary as some sort of fashion role model. The two, in the dinner scene, keep going on and on about things they hate, much to the dismay and utter boredom of those around them.

It's not altogether perfect, I can admit. But there are not a lot of problems, except for maybe a little bit of stalling in the final 15 minutes of the film. I enjoyed it, for its "observation" (as Lisa Schwarzbaum et al. would note), and its characters, who really make this film special (and "bizarre," as my friend said) and absorbing. B+

No comments: