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Please Give

At one point in Please Give, a memorably misanthropic, foulmouthed and borderline-slutty character named Mary (played with a marvelous lack of inhibition by Amanda Peet) tells her ailing grandmother, ‘Things don’t get better. They only get worse.’ Mary belongs to a distinctively New York social network that’s on the verge of implosion, thanks to a set of factors that should be familiar to Holofcener’s viewers by now: capitalism, middle age, sex, good intentions. Mary’s plain-Jane sister Rebecca (Rebecca Hall) is the principal caretaker to their grandmother, who has become the tenant of the couple next door, Kate (Catherine Keener) and Alex (Oliver Platt). They are quite literally waiting for Granny to die so they can knock down the interior walls, double the size of their apartment and live in near-suburban luxury with their acne-ridden teenage daughter. Kate, who is in some sense the story’s central character – certainly Keener gets the most screen time – is plagued by unmanageable, almost pathological guilt, not just about waiting for the old lady to buy the farm but about anything and everything. She gives $20 bills to homeless people, tries to volunteer with seniors and disabled kids (but ends up weeping in the ladies’ room instead) and feels tormented about the business she runs with Alex, which involves buying furniture from estate sales for relatively little and then reselling the better pieces at a ridiculous markup. Of course, it’s also possible her bad vibes emanate from a more intimate source, such as her poisoned relationship with her daughter, or the fact that Alex has been fooling around. Holofcener is frequently understood as a director of ‘women’s films’, and to some extent she embraces that role: She opens Please Give with a hilarious and startling montage of naked breasts, in all imaginable shapes and sizes, being squished into a mammography machine. (Rebecca is a medical technician at an ob/gyn clinic.) But she’s light years away from Nancy Meyers, thank God. Holofcener is something closer to a younger, female-centric Woody Allen, meaning that she’s a social satirist whose essentially dark vision is cloaked (sometimes thinly) as comedy. Please Give is a bit more conventional in presentation, and perhaps a tad less ruthless, than her last black-comic foray into upper-middle financial and sexual anxiety, Friends With Money. But she remains a dramatist of unusual gifts, unmatched in American cinema at the moment, finely attuned to the mystery and terror that lie just below the surface of affluent modern existence. – Andrew O’Hehir, Salon.com
Showtimes: 

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Directed by: 
Nicole Holofcener
Running Time: 
86
Country(ies): 
USA
Language: 
English
Starring: 
Catherine Keener, Amanda Peet, Rebecca Hall, Oliver Platt
Screenplay by: 
Nicole Holofcener

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