Please Give Offers Plenty to Think About
- Richard Abanes Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2010 3 May
DVD Release Date: October 19, 2010
Theatrical Release Date: April 30, 2010 (limited)
Rating: R (for language, brief nudity, mild profanity, sexual content)
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Run Time: 90 min.
Director: Nicole Holofcener
Actors: Catherine Keener, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt, Rebecca Hall, Ann Guilbert, Sarah Steele
Anyone who has ever lived in a big city will have their heart touched and their funny bone tickled by this sober comedy directed by Nicole Holofcener (Walking and Talking, Lovely and Amazing, Friends with Money), who has become known not only for her thoughtful films, but also for her television directorial credits (Sex and the City and Gilmore Girls).
Please Give is a quirky story revolving around the furniture store owned by Kate (Catherine Keener—Being John Malkevich, Capote) and her husband, Alex (Oliver Platt—Frost/Nixon, Bicentennial Man, A Time to Kill). The macabre twist to their benign business is in how they acquire their pieces—they buy them from the adult children of people who have died. And they usually do so for pennies on the dollar, which means they always pocket a healthy profit.
Is that ethical? This is the question Kate ends up asking herself when she starts seeing that perhaps what she's doing isn't right. Her gnawing suspicion creates a tension within that she must resolve in order to go on with life. She responds by searching for redemption; a way to atone, if you will, for her greed. She tries to volunteer at a convalescent home, attempts to help out at a center for the mentally challenged, begins purchasing worthless furniture for thousands—nothing helps.
Complicating the situation are neighbors, Rebecca (Rebecca Hall), a radiology technician, and her sister, Mary (Amanda Peet), a spa facialist. Both are constantly at odds over priorities. Rebecca is mature, concerned about others, and non-materialistic. Mary is shallow, beauty-obsessed, youth-fixated, immoral, and rather cruel. These qualities are primarily brought to light by how they treat their 90-year-old grandmother. Rebecca is loving and kind. Mary is nothing short of mean-spirited. Their lives intersect with Kate and Alex through the purchase of the grandmother's apartment by the couple, who live right next door. It's an investment. Once the grandmother dies, Kate and Alex will break through the wall, gut the new property, and attach it to their apartment.
The obvious tensions—both internal and inter-relational—serve as the backdrop for the entire plot. Each character finds himself/herself in a tense situation that must be resolved. Kate, for instance, in addition to her own personal struggles, must also deal with growing conflict between her and her teenage daughter, Abby, nicely played by the young Sarah Steele (Law & Order, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Gossip Girl). Abby is livid over her mother's habit of giving money to the homeless when "Mom" won't even give her enough cash to buy a new pair of jeans (albeit a $200 pair of jeans).
There is also the tension between the two sisters, who argue about their grandmother and their responsibilities, or lack thereof, to meet her needs. And grandma doesn't help the situation. She only adds to the conflict by being cantankerous, inconsiderate, unkind, stubborn, and blunt to the point of being rude.
The most tragic relational tension develops between Rebecca and Alex, who have an ongoing sexual affair. But it is not an affair without consequences. Alex feels guilty. Rebecca ends up feeling guilty. Meanwhile, Kate is feeling guilty about essentially stealing (via her continual buying of valuable furniture for dirt-cheap). Guilt, a topic rarely discussed today, is free-flowing everywhere by the end of the film. And choices must be made. This is the ultimate question the movie is seeking to ask: What is important in life and what choices should be made in order to keep what is important in life? And that's a good question for anyone.
- Language/Profanity: Lord's name (Jesus) taken in vain twice; various characters use several forms of the "f" word throughout the film, but not excessively; additional uses of moderately foul language, including slang profanity—e.g., "sh-t," "bi-ch," "cr-p," "pr--k," "di-k"—are sprinkled lightly throughout the movie.
- Smoking/Drinking/Drugs: Light social drinking is shown.
- Sex/Nudity: Over the opening credits of the film, several clear views of a medical patient's breasts are shown as part of a scene wherein she is receiving a mammogram. The nudity is not sexual, but is presented in an extremely clinical/sterile way. Four scenes involve adultery. 1) the first kiss between Alex and Mary; 2) a scene of Alex and Mary having sex while standing (no nudity shown); 3) a scene of Alex and Mary having sex in bed (nudity shielded); 4) a scene with Alex and Mary in bed, apparently naked after sex, but covered by a white sheet.
- Violence: None.
- Morals/Ethics: During one conversation between Alex and Mary when Alex is seeking to justify his adultery, he tells Mary that he has heard adultery can ultimately help a marriage. By the end of the movie, Alex has still not confessed his adultery.