Has Nicole Holofcener made a bad movie yet? After taking into account her latest, "Please Give," which debuted at last night at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival that would be a qualified "no." The dramedy continues to showcase the filmmakers' unique characters and sly social commentary that have been staples of previous efforts "Friends with Money," "Lovely & Amazing" and "Walking and Talking."
Moving her focus back to New York after setting "Friends" in LA," "Please" starts with a pair of married Manhattan antique furniture dealers (Catherine Keener, Oliver Platt) who are trying to make friends with the granddaughters (Rebecca Hall, Amanda Peete) of the 91-year-old woman whose apartment (right next door to theirs) they have purchased. Quite a common story in the city, they couple are basically waiting for the tenant to die so they can expand their own apartment into the other unit. It's an intriguing dynamic as Hall's sheltered and shy character doesn't trust either of them, Peet's superficial spa technician just wants her to die, Platt is a mid 40's man who is having issues with his age and his daughter (Sarah Steele) is a spot on 15-year-old dealing with self-image issues. At the center is Keener's character, a woman who feels tremendous guilt over buying the classic furniture of the departed and selling it at a profit. The film has a number of laugh-out-loud moments (for lack of a better expression) and keen observations about how financial status affects modern day relationships (a theme it appears at this year's festival).
The picture also marks another great performance by Keener and marks her third collaboration with Holofcener. Keener is rarely off in any of her roles, but she tends to show a vulnerability in Holofcener's films that doesn't always appear with other independent minded directors. Overall, the cast is fantastic, with Peet standing out in particular displaying her character's desperation and insecurity behind a brash and catty exterior.
Already as Sony Pictures Classics release, "Please Give" opens in limited release on April 24. It will be a fine alternative to the studio fare filling the multiplexes this Spring.
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