- Rated R
- Buy the Blu-ray
All photos © Sony Pictures Classics
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
nybody that says no one makes movies for women clearly isn’t looking in the right places. While Hollywood continues to make a killing off subpar romantic comedies, writer/director Nicole Holofcener has quietly produced some of the best female-centric films of the last decade, only for them to go mostly unnoticed in theaters. “Please Give” is the latest in Holofcener’s series of winning tragicomedies, and although it might not be her best, it’s still better than superficial garbage like “Sex and the City 2.” After all, the characters in “Please Give” are real women with real problems, and that’s something you're almost never going to find in films made within the Hollywood studio system.
Catherine Keener stars as Kate, the owner of a vintage furniture store that she runs with her husband (Oliver Platt). Overcome with guilt at the way they acquire the pieces for their shop – taking advantage of grieving relatives of the recently deceased who don’t know what the stuff is worth – Kate tries to make up for it by donating her time and money to the homeless. Not that it’s helping much. Rebecca (Rebecca Hall), the granddaughter of their next-door neighbor (Ann Guilbert), thinks she’s an insensitive monster who’s counting down the days until her grandmother croaks so that they can knock down the walls and expand their apartment, despite Kate’s attempts to convince her otherwise.
But this is New York City we’re talking about – where prime real estate doesn’t come easily or cheaply – and although Kate might not want to admit it (lest she look even more selfish), she can’t wait for the old hag to kick the bucket. That might sound mean, but Guilbert’s Andra is such an insufferable ball of negativity that even her own granddaughter (Rebecca’s cold-hearted older sister, played by Amanda Peet) has lost all compassion for her. Andra’s outspoken behavior might seem harsh to the people within the film, but it’s pretty funny to those watching it. You could even say that Guilbert steals the show, which isn’t easy to do with an ensemble of this caliber. Keener, in particular, continues to deliver some of her best work under the direction of Holofcener, so it's really no wonder why she continues to cast the veteran actress in all of her films.
For as great as the actors are in the movie, much of their success relies on the strength of the script. It’s sharp and witty, but never forced, and features some of the best pure dialogue you’ll hear this year – often to the point that the story doesn’t matter so much as the conversations that propel it. With the exception of Rebecca Hall, virtually everyone in the film speaks so bluntly and without any inhibition that it’s amazing they even get along, but Holofcener writes such remarkable female characters that you’re glad they do. “Please Give” loses some of its charm in the final act as Holofcener rushes to wrap up the various subplots, but it’s easy to forgive when you have characters as engaging as these. Carrie Bradshaw and her Manhattan gal pals may have glitz and glamour, but I'll take the smart, funny, and yes, flawed women of "Please Give" any day of the week.
Single-Disc Blu-Ray Review:
If you’re buying a movie like “Please Give” on Blu-ray, it’s probably not for the bonus material. Still, Sony have put together a decent collection of extras including a behind the scenes featurette where the cast discuss their characters, a short Q&A with director Nicole Holofcener, and an outtakes reel. It’s not much, but it’s better than nothing at all.