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REVIEW: Please Give

A good, funny character study; and no breasts were harmed in the filming

Please Give: Rates a B+.
Courtesy photo.

Please Give is one of those frustrating movies. I liked it, yet I can’t recommend it to anyone. I’ve tried this in the past with Woody Allen movies (which this reminds me of at times). I’m tired of people coming back to me saying they’re bored with these character study, slice-of-life pieces that I find fascinating (when they’re done right). Oh, and there’s a lot of right about this (said in my best Tina Fey/Date Night voice).

Director Nicole Holofcener has turned into a great filmmaker. I’d love for Nancy Meyers (It’s Complicated) to watch and learn a few things.

It’s not that I’m biased, because of my love of Oliver Platt and Catherine Keener, who have both never done a performance I haven’t liked. They play a married couple that buys furniture at estate sales (and from neighbors), and sell it at a nice profit.

The supporting cast is solid. Rebecca Hall and Amanda Peet are cute sisters, with very different personalities; watching them deal with their grandmother is likea train wreck you can’t look away from. That grandmother, played by Ann Guilbert, steals the show with her Clara Peller voice (Where’s the beef?) and great one-liners.

Sarah Steele, the daughter that is dealing with acne and parents that won’t buy her $200 jeans, is flat out terrific. For her to be rude and display that teen angst, while still having us feel for her, shows just what a talent this kid is. I first saw her in Spanglish, as the less attractive of the two kids, who seems to be just fine with that lot in life. She’s got a wonderful career ahead of her.

One scene has her not wanting to come down to dinner because of a huge pimple on her nose. When she finally arrives, with underwear over her head – it’s perhaps the funniest scene involving underwear I’ve seen. That would include 16 Candles, and Little Children.

This also has the best scene of a couple “fighting” you’ll get all year. After Oliver Platt flirts during dinner with Amanda Peet, his wife is talking about it as he flosses his teeth before bed. She’s sitting on the tub and asks why he was flirting with her. Instead of him denying it, he says “I know. It’s weird. I don’t know why I did, because she’s such a bitch.” As he walks to bed the wife says, “It’s because she’s young. And cute!” She wasn’t furious and over-the-top, like in some Meyers film. These are adults, acting the way adults act in real life – not in scripted sitcoms or movies. And how refreshing is that?

Keeners character is saddled with guilt, as she gets many good deals from young people that aren’t sure how much to sell their grandparents stuff for. This causes her to give every homeless person in town money. And occasionally overpay for some items, because she feels bad for the people she’s buying from.

There’s a scene where she tries volunteering with various organizations, and nothing works out right. She says all the wrong things to the old folks at a home.

When she tries to coach a Special Olympics basketball team, she ends up crying as the kids joyfully score baskets. It’s not the reaction needed by a coach in this situation.

The funniest scene involving her altruism, has her trying to give a meal in a doggie bag to a large man outside the restaurant in a jacket, gloves, and ski cap. He tells her “I’m not homeless. I’m waiting for a table.” She feels embarrassed as she asks her husband “Didn’t he look homeless to you?” He replies, “No honey. He looked like a black man waiting for a table.”

This understated film has such smart, original dialogue, I’m sure I can write about every scene and it would sound funny and interesting. That’s because it is.

I’m guessing most people will find this movie slow. And that’s a shame. Maybe that’s why reality shows are so popular, and movies like It’s Complicated become huge hits.

I usually stay during the closing credits, because I like to see actors I may have missed or songs I might not have heard. In this movie, I thought about the opening scene that showed 20 different breasts during mammograms. I wondered if they’d be listed in the closing credits and how. They weren’t.

This movie gets a B+ .