REVIEW: Please Give

12 12 2010

Thanks to Best Picture winners like “Million Dollar Baby,” “Crash,” and “Slumdog Millionaire,” today’s moviegoers are accustomed to thinking that movies that tackle issues have to be massive, sprawling dramas with big implications.  Euthanasia, racism, and poverty are big social issues facing the world today, and these movies have tackled them in such a big, brassy way that most audiences think that movies with such relevant themes have to be this way.

Yet on the comedic flip-side of the coin, there is Nicole Holofcener, who writes movies about issues just as important but with the scope of your average person.  Her latest feature, “Please Give,” explores money, greed, and guilt in today’s society as it affects four people in different but profound ways.  Full of wit and humor, the movie is delightfully pertinent to just about anyone in 2010 as it probes for answers to questions we often find ourselves asking everyday.

There’s nothing monumental about Holofcener’s latest study of money and society, but she builds the narrative from characters who are interesting and compelling down to their core.  Upper class New York couple Kate (Catherine Keener) and Alex (Oliver Platt) run a furniture business, managing to stay on top of competition by purchasing antiques from the children of the elderly who don’t know the true value of the pieces.  With some of their profits, they have managed to buy an adjacent apartment, now just waiting for the elderly inhabitant to pass away.

Yet with all the spoils of money, Kate can’t help but feel torn by guilt.  She sees the homelessness in the city and feels obliged to help in some way, but she also has a family to provide for, including a daughter who will stop at nothing until she gets a pair of designer jeans.  She also starts to wonder if she and Alex’s predatory purchasing is morally acceptable.  As a result, she tries to reform her life for what she thinks is the better of those less fortunate.  However, she finds that even with the best of intentions, sometimes helping others doesn’t help them – or yourself – as much as hoped.

Holofcener raises a lot of interesting questions with “Please Give” about the nature of charity in today’s culture, and her exploration doesn’t yield many answers.  The situations she lays out aren’t exactly comforting for those who think they are being helpful to the community.  But simply by raising these questions, she leads her audience to a self-examination, precisely what movies dealing with important societal issues should do.  B+


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14 12 2010
mcarteratthemovies

Not surprisingly, this never made it to theaters near me. But I love Catherine Keener and Oliver Platt, so this is a must-see for me.

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