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'Please Give'
An Acerbic Comedy Full of Guilt, Humor and Humanity
Howard Schumann (howard16)     Print Article 
Published 2010-05-25 10:38 (KST)   
According to Werner Erhard, guilt is a position of no responsibility. In other words, if you fail to openly acknowledge that you have acted in a way that is inconsistent with your integrity, you end up feeling guilty and beating yourself up about it. In Nicole Holofcener's latest acerbic comedy Please Give, the main characters' lives are run by their guilt. Kate, played by Holofcener regular Catherine Keener, hates making money purchasing the belongings of the recently dead and selling them at an inflated price in her New York antique store but does it anyway and will probably continue to do it. To assuage her feelings of self-loathing, she hands out cash obsessively to street people but refuses to buy her cantankerous 15-year old daughter Abby (Sarah Steele) a pair of expensive jeans.

Kate is not without compassion and attempts to volunteer with the handicapped and elderly but cannot handle it emotionally. The guilt, unfortunately, is spread around the household. Kate's husband Alex (Oliver Platt) feels remorse about cheating on his wife with an attractive neighbor, Mary (Amanda Peet), who works as a facial massage therapist and has no qualms about giving Alex a facial among other kinds of massages. Like Holofcener's 2001 film "Lovely and Amazing" -- which explored women's responses to a culture obsessed with youth, celebrity, and physical beauty -- the characters once again are not bad folks. In fact they are quite endearing and the director provides them with a distinctive voice that can be sweet and full of gentle humor yet at times acidic and unpleasant. They are not people you would likely want to spend time with, but the characters feel fun and real.

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"Please Give" is not about the story but about the characters. Whatever story there is, however, centers on Kate and Alex's relationship with the daughters of their 91-year-old neighbor Andra (Ann Guilbert) who lives next door. The daughters, Rebecca, a lab technician who gives mammograms and Mary, a massage therapist, are both unmarried and attracted to men who few nice things to say about them, behavior consistent with low self-esteem.
Andra is distraught as it becomes apparent that Kate and Alex are preparing for her eminent death by planning to expand their apartment. Kate tries to smooth things over by inviting the old lady and her granddaughters over for a birthday party for Andra, but some inappropriate remarks and Andra's dissatisfaction with the party eventually sour the mood.

On paper, the story of some feisty rich people and their spoiled daughters may sound like a drag. In "Please Give" however, it is involving and highly entertaining. It is filled with sharp wit, humor, humanity, and contains some wonderful performances that light up the screen. "Please Give" is a film that is reminiscent of Woody Allen at his best.
©2010 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Howard Schumann

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