Earlier this week, my wife Adrianne asked what I had heard about the film Please Give. I told her I had not read much about it, but was aware that the critics had generally liked it.
She said, “I think we may have to see it.”
Immediately, red flashers and alarm bells began to go off in my head. No, it wasn’t a stroke. It was merely my memory reminding me that Adrianne’s track record for dramatic picks is nearly impeccable.
Her successes include her taking me to the film Il Postino (against my will) and the play Proof (to which I acquiesced only after I found out it was a play about math). As it turned out, both of these had impacts on me far in excess of any others I’ve ever seen. And when she convinced me to go with her to the 2005 re-make of Pride & Prejudice (the one with Keira Knightley and the exquisite musical soundtrack by Dario Marianelli), I was transfixed by a superb, virtually inerrant film.
So, as is my wont, I immediately began to research Please Give, and (surprise, surprise) it looks like she may have picked a winner yet again.
The critics were, indeed, mostly positive. Joe Morgenstern called it “perilously close to perfection,” and you can read a few others and see the trailer below. But there were a few naysayers. The New York Post said, “It’s shallow. Or maybe it’s deeply shallow.” And Rex Reed questioned, “At a time when every penny counts, where do they come up with the money to finance a movie this boring?” (To which I would add the question, how long has it been since we paid any attention to Rex Reed anyway?)
So almost certainly we will see Please Give this weekend. I’ll let you know if I side more with Morgenstern or with Reed.
METACRITIC RATING: 78 ( Generally Favorable Reviews )
Directed by: Nicole Holofcener
Starring: Catherine Keener, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt
Running Time: 90 minutes
Rating: R for language, some sexual content and nudity
Kate has a lot on her mind. There’s the ethics problem of buying furniture on the cheap at estate sales and marking it up at her trendy Manhattan store. There’s the materialism problem of not wanting her teenage daughter to want the expensive things that Kate wants. There’s the marriage problem of sharing a partnership in parenting, business, and life with her husband Alex but sensing doubt nibbling at the foundations. And there’s Kate’s free-floating 21st century malaise — the problem of how to live well and be a good person when poverty, homelessness, and sadness are always right outside the door. Plus, there’s the neighbors: cranky, elderly Andra and the two granddaughters who look after her. As Kate, Alex, and Abby interact with the people next door, with each other, and with their New York surroundings, a complex mix of animosity, friendship, deception, guilt, and love plays out with both sharp humor and pathos. (Sony Pictures Classics)
Wall Street Journal Joe Morgenstern (rating: 100): This gorgeous film, always tender and sometimes dark, is a deeply resonant comic drama that’s concerned with nothing less than life, death, love, sex, guilt and the urban logic of mortality. (Read Morgenstern’s complete glowing review here.)
Chicago Sun-Times Roger Ebert (rating: 88):The movie is about imperfect characters in a difficult world, who mostly do the best they can under the circumstances, but not always. Do you realize what a revolutionary approach that is for a movie these days?
USA Today Claudia Puig (rating: 88):Sometimes — and far too rarely — a film will hit all the right notes, with sharp, original dialogue, brilliant casting and an absorbing story. So caught up in its spell, you dread seeing the credits roll. Please Give is that movie.