Writer/director Nicole Holofcener (Walking and Talking, Lovely and Amazing and Friends with Money) drops yet another urbane, talky, existentially searching comedy armed with the kind of character and emotional nuance Woody Allen lost years ago.
Kate (Catherine Keener) and Alex (Oliver Platt) are a fortysomething married couple with an angsty teenage daughter (Sarah Steele) and a flourishing furniture store in Manhattan. They're one of those couples who drift apart as their material possessions grow in number and lavishness. She complains that he doesn't read anymore; he's annoyed by her general malaise and piqued by the possibility that his long-dormant masculinity might still entice the opposite sex.
Kate and Alex seems to have little remorse when it comes to the possible death of their elderly, cantankerous neighbor, Andra (Ann Guilbert) — in fact, they're eager to snatch up her adjacent apartment so they can expand their supposedly cramped living space.
Yet perhaps in a bit of compensation for their ethically sketchy business — they buy furniture from the “children of dead people” and sell it as high-priced “vintage” fare — Kate is suffering from a rapidly encroaching case of guilt, going as far as volunteering at a home for the mentally challenged and giving homeless people $20 bills while denying her daughter the designer jeans (aka emotional connection) she so desires.
Holofcener weaves Andra's emotionally stunted, polar-opposite granddaughters (Rebecca Hall and Amanda Peet, both effective) into a deft, laconic narrative (think Hannah and Her Sisters-era Woody Allen on Valium and Ritalin) that refuses to provide any easy answers.
Yet for all of its existential angst and familial messiness, Please Give radiates a glimmer of hope via Holofcener's light stylistic touch and the peculiar, ever-affecting presence of Keener. A more accurate title might have been Please Forgive. Grade: B-plus
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