Two families, sort of neighbors in Manhattan, cross paths as they navigate marriage, parenthood of a teen, ennui, a first date, and end-of-life care. Rebecca and Mary are sisters; their cranky 91-year-old grandmother's neighbors, Kateand Alex, run an upscale retro-furniture business, and will expand into her flat after she dies. Rebecca is quiet, without a boyfriend until a patient at the clinic where she works introduces her grandson. Mary is acerbic, stung by a recent breakup. Kate looks for meaning in her life, wondering if she should volunteer. Alex, too, is at loose ends. Their daughter, Abby, has zits and teenage moods. What does it mean to be good? Written by
Kate is shown reading a book, 'Assassination Vacation', by Sarah Vowell. That author appears in a brief but credited role as a shopper. The actress playing Kate, Catherine Keener, is also a featured voice in the audio book of 'Assassination Vacation'. See more »
Please Give (2010) was written and directed by Nicole Holofcener. It's a very New York City kind of movie. The plot revolves around the purchase of an apartment by two urban professionals. (They're not that young, so they're not yuppies, although they probably were yuppies in their day.) At present, they make an apparently excellent living buying up old "classic" furniture, and reselling it in their storeroom. Catherine Keener plays Kate, the wife, and Oliver Platt is her husband Alex.
The problem with the purchase of the apartment is that it's still occupied by an older woman, and the agreement is that she will live there until she dies. Into the mix come the woman's two granddaughters--Rebecca Hall as Rebecca, the "plain" sister, and Amanda Peet as Mary, the gorgeous sister. (Rebecca Hall is only plain by Hollywood standards, and Amanda Peet is gorgeous by those same standards.)
The film has several plot threads moving forward simultaneously, but the one that interested me the most was Kate's ambivalence about her source of income. Obviously, if you're selling any used furniture--classic or otherwise--you have to buy low and sell high. However, Kate is clearly guilt-ridden about making money because she knows furniture value and the sellers--usually children of a recently deceased parent--don't know these values.
She also feels guilty about street people, and tends to give them ten- or twenty-dollar bills as she walks along the street. She really wants to help disadvantaged people, and checks out a residence for the frail elderly and a day program for developmentally disabled people to see if she can volunteer.
Catherine Keener is an appealing actor, and her character is basically likable. However, as I thought about it, Kate's guilt doesn't lead to any really effective action. Yes, she agonizes about the furniture, but she buys and sells it anyway. And, although her motivation to help the less fortunate is clear, she doesn't actually accept the volunteer positions. She thinks about them, and she cries, but she doesn't really do anything. Still, you can't deny the honesty of her emotions.
This is a movie in which, objectively, nothing truly major happens. However, the characters are changed by the events in the film. They are imperfect and they don't become perfect, but they're interesting and you care about them.
As I wrote at the beginning of the review, this is a very New York City kind of movie. It crackles with realistic NYC atmosphere, and you get a real sense of the city. I could almost feel myself walking along the sidewalk with Kate or Alex.
All in all, I think this is definitely a film worth seeing, and it will work well on DVD. My guess is that opinions about this movie will vary tremendously. I liked it, but others may have equally compelling reasons to dislike it. See it yourself and make your own decision.
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