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Please Give (2010)

"Before viewing" talks don't have spoilers, but since there's no "After viewing" talk for this one, comments may have spoilers. More»» by Randy Heffner

Is the film worth your time?

Please Give mixes together an ensemble of stories, mostly about relationships and money. It’s a study in contrasts, with (typically) just enough exaggeration to bring out smile. The film’s light tone is punctuated by penetrating moments of seriousness, some of which are poignant, some painful. It explores themes such as the value of another human, caring for difficult people, self-centeredness, on what basis we value ourselves, and the nature of real love, commitment, and relationship. The various storylines quite naturally juxtapose different takes on these themes, and overall it is an engaging collection of tales. The title turns out to be very well chosen for the multiple ways it plays with its themes.

The acting and filmcraft in Please Give is, on the whole, very good. Here and there, the exaggerations might have been more seamless with the fabric of the film, but this is not much of an issue. In the end, the film left me with a mix of emotions and conclusions about the characters and about what the film said about life and beauty — there were moments of clear beauty and moments that mixed questions and counter-themes into beauty. There’s goodness in this, since it pushes us to keep mulling over the material. I find Please Give to be worth the time, but active watching is called for. Keeping asking where the good is and let yourself be moved toward good “in reverse” as the story moves through situations that embody the opposite of love. The film’s many nuanced metaphors and intra-story similarities even warrant watching it more than once.

Kate and Alex own a specialty furnishings store in the city, where they sell items bought from children of deceased elderly — on the cheap, which is starting to eat at Kate. Their teenage daughter, Abby, is working through common issues of image and skin problems. Andra lives in the apartment next door, visited frequently by her granddaughter Rebecca and infrequently by her other granddaughter, Mary. Kate and Alex are waiting for Andra to die — they’ve bought her apartment so as to expand their own. Rebecca and Mary are radical opposites in most every way — including pursuit of love. From that setup, it’s hard to concisely indicate the direction of the storylines without spoilers, other than to say it’s largely a mixing pot of relationships among the main characters and few other important supporting characters. Running time: 90 min.

The film depicts clearly, though not graphically, more than one occasion of sexual relations — although I’d say that in the overall context of the film, there is reason for these to be there. There are themes and questions about money, consumerism, and greed, as well as a fair bit of strong language and a joke or two with ties to sexuality. Please Give opens with full and clear portrayal of Rebecca’s tasks administering mammogram x-rays (this is the nudity referred to in the film’s rating summary).

  • Director: Nicole Holofcener
  • Screenplay: Nicole Holofcener
  • Leads: Catherine Keener, Rebecca Hall, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt, Sarah Steele, Ann Morgan Guilbert
  • Cinematography: Yaron Orbach
  • Music: Marcelo Zarvos


NOTE: Although Before viewing talks don't have spoilers, comments below MAY have spoilers
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