Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Please Give

BEST OF 2010

Nicole Holofcener has been creating character driven films since 1997. Her first feature film, Walking and Talking, is enjoyable. Very much a romantic comedy of the 90s. Holofcener's second film, Lovely & Amazing, remains one of the most enjoyable films from the 00s. The film is dark, comical, smart, and well acted. Holofcener knows how to use a cast- a great cast. The third film, Friends with Money, is Holofcener's most viewer friendly film. Gone are Holofcener's traits of not giving us the answers or the happy ending. On first viewing, Friends with Money is a lot of fun. As usual, Catherine Keener is brilliant in the film.

As I saw previews of Please Give at the start of other films, I worried Holofcener had started to travel a path I wasn't interested in following. After Friends with Money I was very hesitant to just jump into Please Give. In fact, I didn't see it in the theatre because I was afraid of disappointment. I was wrong to judge the director so harshly based on a film I didn't even dislike. What is wrong with me?

Catherine Keener has returned in her fourth Holofcener film (yes, four. Catherine Keener has been in each of the films). Keener plays a neurotic mother, wife, and business owner. No one captures the neurosis of New York City and our current cultural woes like Holofcener.

Holofcener is always concerned with the female body image. She tackles these issues to complete perfection in Lovely & Amazing. She does a fairly decent job this time around, too. Although, at times, I found myself annoyed with the teenage daughter's tear-filled adolescent rants. It isn't that I can't relate, but it starts to border on spoiled brat behavior. This may be the point of the character. The way some keep giving to others and never receive anything in return.

Amanda Peet is lovely as the granddaughter to the dying neighbor. In fact, this is probably Peet's best role (her role in Igby Goes Down comes close to a tie though). Her portrayal of an obsessive and aging beauty is heartbreaking and hilarious.

Rebecca Hall may be the greatest film actress to arrive in the past handful of years. Hall hit the ground running in Allen's Vicky Christina Barcelona and has only continued to impress in her handful of roles since then. In Please Give, Hall plays the sad, lost, lonely caretaker to her grandmother. She is the perfect amount of innocence and bitterness.

As will all Holofcener's films, it is hard to tell exactly what is being said. And, even harder to decide if it matters. But, in the end I feel it comes down to one thing: stuff. The stuff we hold on to, the stuff we throw out, and the stuff we put on ourselves. Does it mean anything to anyone else? Or, only to ourselves?


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