Sunday, May 30, 2010

Guilt Makes Her Give Back

In the movie Please Give, Catherine Keener stars as Kate, the owner of an antique furniture store in New York. Like a lawyer who hangs around a hospital hoping to score new clients, Kate and her husband, Alex (Oliver Platt), pounce when there's a death, buying up the deceased's furniture for cheap and selling it in the store for a significant profit. It's not that easy, though. Kate is wracked with guilt about what she does, and she tries to balance out her lifestyle by giving money to homeless people and volunteering — a fruitless pursuit because it's motivated more by pity than by compassion. And that's not lost on Kate's daughter, Abby (Sarah Steele), who is dealing with body image issues and could use some compassion from her mother.

Written and directed by Nicole Holofcener (the excellent Friends with Money), Please Give is less story and more character study. The biggest plot point is that Kate and Alex are waiting for their elderly neighbor to die so they can buy her apartment and expand theirs. However, despite the morbid-sounding details mentioned here, the screenplay has more laughs than you might think — there's a particularly funny scene involving Abby wearing underwear on her head to cover over a zit. Also, the acting is generally very good. Keener (a regular in Holofcener's films) is especially great, and so is Steele. (Amanda Peet and Rebecca Hall round out the cast.) Please Give may not be a must-see on the big screen, but it'll make a good rental. I'm giving it a B.



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