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Directed by Nicole Holofcener
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Nicole Holofcener has made some interesting films: “Friends With Money” and “Lovely and Amazing” come to mind. “Please Give,” though not a bad film, seems to have imprisoned her in a style in which each episode, each moment, is expected to have more resonance than she has given it. We quickly go on to other things, and so does she.
Oliver Platt (Alex) and Catherine Keener (Kate) are married and own a mid-20th-century not-quite antique store in Manhattan, where they buy some stock from recently deceased people, mark them up and sell them. They want to buy their neighbor’s apartment, a 90-year-old widow with two granddaughters, Rebecca (Rebecca Hall) and Mary (Amanda Peet). Rebecca is a radiology technician, Mary does facials at a salon.
In the course of getting to know his neighbor’s family, Alex has an affair with Mary, and there lies one of the problems with the film: Platt is miscast (too fat, too slobby) in the role – why would Mary even want to sleep with him? – and we never see whether or to what extent his adultery has consequences for his marriage. Alex and Kate have a 15-year-old daughter, Andra, with lots of acne and lots of teenage anger. But she seems to be there as a plot device rather than as a human being.
In a sense, every character in “Please Give” seems to be in place here so that Holofcener can make a movie, rather than to be a human being. Kate has a kind of tic: she gives money to everyone she sees on the street who appears to be homeless. She tries to volunteer at an old-people’s home and a center for disabled teenagers, but retires to the bathroom to cry about it without committing herself. Mary and Rebecca have problems as sisters, but we are left to intuit just what went wrong between them.
Don’t be put off by these objections; with the exception of Mr. Platt, this is a marvelous cast of actresses who can do no wrong. It’s the writer/director who’s let them down.