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Please Give

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

SPECIAL FEATURES: Behind the Scenes of Please Give; Outtakes; Q&A Clip #1; Q&A Clip #2; Q&A Clip #3; Q&A Clip #4.

MIDDLE class guilt and personal angst are the order of the day in Nicole Holofcener’s appealing ensemble drama Please Give, which displays a lightness of touch that’s sorely missing from similarly themed movies such as Greenberg.

Making the most of a great ensemble cast, as well as some scenic New York locations, Holofcener’s insightful movie is born from personal observation and feeling, yet provides plenty for viewers to sink their teeth into.

The story follows a bunch of New Yorkers as they wrestle with the issues and demons affecting their lives. Kate (Catherine Keener) is a furniture specialist who feels guilty for the charmed life she lives with her daughter Abby (Sarah Steele) and husband Alex (Oliver Platt), particularly as her business thrives on her ability to be able to buy items from recently bereaved families to sell on at huge profit.

Living next door to them (in the apartment they own), meanwhile, is elderly grandma Andra (Ann Morgan Guilbert), an acid-tongued pensioner who regularly bemoans the efforts of the people trying to make her life better.

These include her two grand-daughters, Rebecca (Rebecca Hall), a shy mammography technician, and her more brazen sister Mary (Amanda Peet), who is carrying on with Alex behind everyone’s back.

Every character has a great deal of baggage to carry around, yet thanks to Holofcener’s astute, yet highly amusing screenplay, and easygoing (and dare we say, Woody Allen-esque) direction, they never become overbearing or pretentious.

Some of the themes may be difficult for viewers to relate to, while certain actions may well provoke disapproval, but Holofcener is careful to keep her characters flesh and blood creations, who are more flawed and grey than good or bad.

This, in turn, gives rise to some wonderfully witty interplay, as well as some gently amusing situations… as well as some surprisingly poignant moments.

Holofcener is no stranger to this type of movie, of course, having previously impressed with the likes of Friends With Money. But with Please Give, she seems to have come of age, delivering a film that’s both engaging and satisfying, while providing a platform for all of her cast to shine.

Keener is typically brilliant, Platt as charismatic as ever… but it’s Hall and Peet who really deliver the eye-catching performances, adding to growing reputations as the chalk and cheese sisters who steal away with all of the movie’s finest moments.

Please Give is well worthy of anyone’s attention.

Certificate: 15
Running time: 90mins
UK DVD Release: January 10, 2011