Please Give captures the ennui of middle class Manhattan guilt. To its credit Please Give isn’t heavy handed nor does it plead for your understanding. And not unlike a few ace filmmakers (Lumet, Allen) Please Give offers a view of Manhattan itself as a character as well as a metro of diverse economic types.
Oliver Platt and Catherine Keener play a quaint NYC couple with a daughter at the awkward stage and an antique furniture store in a prime location. Imagine their consternation when a similar store a few blocks over buys one of their tables for five grand and plops it in their storefront for seven grand.
The Gotham unit where Keener and Platt live will soon expand since they have an option to buy the next-door apartment. The catch being they have to wait until the elderly neighbor dies. Insert crabby old person joke here.
Amanda Peet and Rebecca Hall (both very good) are the daughters of said old tenant and have occasion to dine with Platt, Keener and family. This leads to all of them interacting in various scenarios while the movie explores their character traits. Hall the demure sister always stares at this one store when she’s walking to work. Peet the bad sister makes snide remarks at appropriate times. Platt seems like a bored husband finding solace in a meaningless affair while Keener has the most soul and always tries to give money to street people.
Director Nicole Holofcener has a good feel for how to establish a directorial tonality, never losing track but maybe sometimes wavering. Her previous work includes Walking and Talking (1996), Lovely and Amazing (2001) along with a few episodes from the first and third season of Sex And The City.
The title gives me pause because I want to say Just Give, or Just Cause, or Something’s Got to Give or Please, Please Me. But in retrospect it’s a perfect description of the spine of this film. We’re all asked to give at some point in our lives and Keener represents the part of us that feels freedom when one reaches out in a kind and anonymous manner. Naturally the best scene in the film revolves around a family argument on whether to offer money to a scruffy homeless man. Please Give opens exclusively at the River Oaks Three this weekend.
– Michael Bergeron