Please Give

Nicole Always Giving

         
 

01 May 2010| No Comments     by Sean Chavel

 

Chick flicks have for some time now, maybe two decade’s worth, have had a derogatory slander to it. Maybe it is because most of them, starring the likes of Kate Hudson or Matthew McConaughey or maybe the two of them together, stink of moldy cheese. But if there exists one stable reliability to the genre it’s writer-director Nicole Holofcener, who has never made a bad feature. Her latest film Please Give once again has Catherine Keener as her star subject. This is their fourth film together.

Holofcener previous career films are “Walking and Talking,” Lovely and Amazing” and “Friends with Money.” Her latest film opens with a graphic montage depicting the tragedy of mammograms. Not really a tragedy, that’s overstatement, but it takes a delicate beautiful thing and makes it, uh… makes you want to close your eyes at the indignity.

There are five main characters. Kate (Keener) and her husband Alex (Oliver Platt) are in the business of buying the vintage antiques of the recently deceased, sometimes buying apartments of the deceased. Kate and Alex live in a high-rise unit, next to a unit inhabited by the elderly Andra (Ann Guilbert). She is cared for by her granddaughters Rebecca (Rebecca Hall) and Mary (Amanda Peet), who share a range of good and bad opinion of Kate and Alex, whom in essence, are bargain-hunters.

The fizz in Kate and Alex’s marriage is deflating their sense of worth. Perhaps the problem is that they share every waking minute together (can marriage and occupation co-exist?). They have an overweight and generally insecure teenage daughter Abby (Sarah Steele), whose self-esteem would boost if only somebody bought her a two-hundred dollar pair of jeans. But Kate doesn’t buy her jeans, or buy her skin care. Not when there are starving homeless people on the street. Alex could also step in and buy for his daughter, but he invests elsewhere too, in the lives of strangers.

Next door, Rebecca is an attractive and hard-working radiology technician who barely gets out to date (she prefers guys that are the cute type, like Thomas Ian Nicholas who plays Eugene). Mary doesn’t date, but she does get around in meaningless flings. But in the story set-up Rebecca and Mary are neighbors to Kate and Alex whom they perceive as leechers.

The surprise is that Rebecca and Mary make friends with neighbors they only thought they despised. Rebecca becomes closer to Kate, while Mary becomes closer to Alex and their daughter Abby. Each friendship becomes its own privatized confessional. Kate leaks out her guilt to Rebecca for what she does for a living. Alex pours out his frustrations on lack of excitement in his marriage to Mary. And Mary becomes Abby’s skin care specialist, and lousy advisor on beauty since, to her, beauty is skin deep and nothing else.

All of this description fails though to convey what a talented writer Holofcener is who cares too much about her characters to give them false objectives. Shall I reaffirm to you that the film ends in the humbling, realistic way it should end without being hammered with overblown dramatic ploys? What’s criterion is that Holofcener writes jokes worthy of Woody Allen in the 1970’s, but with a pro-feminist spark interpolated into it. She writes characters that are real and rounded, vulnerable and neurotic, smart and courageous. Holofcener puts the brains back in chick flicks and re-installs the idea that at least a few chick flicks out there are made for the grown-up thinking person.

90 Minutes. Rated R.

DRAMA / CHICK FLICK / WOMAN FRIDAY NIGHT GET-TOGETHER MOVIE

Film Cousins: “Manhattan” (1979); “Walking and Talking” (1996); “Lovely & Amazing” (2002); “Friends with Money” (2006).

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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of flickminute.com, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.

 

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