Please Give is a hidden treasure and unfortunately this is more due to a lack of promotion for the film. The story is about a husband-wife team of vintage furniture dealers, Alex (Oliver Platt) and Kate (Catherine Keener) who are successful at what they do. The couple visits the homes of deceased elderly people scouting for pieces to sell at their shop and with their accumulated wealth, they are hoping to acquire the flat of their neighbour, a miserable 90 year-old Andra (Ann Morgan Guilbert), after she passes on.
Andra's granddaughter Rebecca (Rebecca Hall) is a Mammogram Technician who cares for her on a regular basis. After struggling to meet a boyfriend, one of her elderly patients Mrs. Portman (Lois Smith) introduces Rebecca to her grandson Eugene (Thomas Ian Nicholas), meaning that she has less time for her grandmother. Rebecca's sister Mary (Amanda Peet) is a Aesthetician and seems to have inherited some of her grandmother's cynicism towards the world and pretty much despises her grandmother, avoiding her at all costs. With Rebecca focusing on her relationship with Eugene, Mary is forced to spend more time with her grandmother, though she has no patience for her negativity.
To build a rapport with Andra and Rebecca seeing that they'll be taking over her flat eventually, Alex and Kate decide to invite them along with Mary over for dinner to celebrate Andra's birthday. Despite everything appearing to be fine between the couple, Alex winds up having an affair with Mary after some dinner table flirting. Kate, a very giving woman, has an increasingly strained relationship with her teen daughter Abby (Sarah Steele) who fails to understand why her mother is so generous with homeless people in doling out cash to them, yet she is unable to hand her $200 to buy a pair of jeans. At the same time, Keener begins to question the ethics behind how she makes a living, feeling as though she might be taking advantage of vulnerable situations and the ignorance of the deceased's family members.
Please Give isn't so much a story with twists, turns or melodrama. It's more a reflection on human relationships and coming to terms with the consequences of mortality. It's about introspection and understanding that our life perspectives are within our power and control, instead of conveniently blaming our parents for how we turned out. And it's about knowing that sometimes in life what we do isn't necessarily the right thing, but to survive we have to come to terms with it in our own way.
The ensemble cast shines here with some really complex characters who each have their own battles to fight. Everything develops and ties up beautifully thanks to Nicole Holofcener's wonderful screenplay and direction. She is definitely at the head of a new generation of female directors. Keener is excellent as usual and seems to have a great working chemistry with Holofcener as their last collaboration Friends With Money, also was fantastic. Steele also shines her role, with a maturity beyond her youth and as sisters, British actress Hall and Peet are the perfect contrast of sweet and callous. Sony Pictures Classics' Please Give is now in theatres and is unexpectedly satisfying. Grade: A-
Check out some of these photos I got of the film's stars Keener and Peet not too long ago here in Toronto:
(Photo credit: Mr. Will-W.)