Noah Baumbauch has a film technique that just sort of screams indie-cinema, it works for him because that palpable sense of unease always pervading his films (Margot at the Wedding and this year’s Greenberg as key culprits) but this unease never sinks into an overbearing awkwardness, Please Give however can't say the same...it's not just uneasy - it's downright awkward at times and therein lies the key fault in Nicole Holofcener’s pseudo-comedy. Kate and Alex are a couple who make their living by buying
furniture from the elderly deceased which they sell in an antique shop. They’re currently waiting on their next door neighbour, an octogenarian, to croak – although they’re less interested in her goods than the chance to knock down the walls separating the two apartments and turn it into one. Andra, the octogenarian, is looked after by her two granddaughter – Rebecca, who gives mammograms and is altogether perfect in her wispy way – but for her lack of a boyfriend. Her sister Mary, the bitch, works in a sauna and has extensive tans at a tanning salon. Holofcener throws the quartet of misfits together and we spend 90 minutes watching them dancing around each other, none of them getting significantly closer to self fulfilment.
One thing Holofcener gets right is the marriage between character and actor. When the film opens you have the feeling that she's is not too sure if Keener’s Kate is villain or no, but Keener is a fine actress – even if we know her more for turning up and killing it in supporting turns. Amanda Peet, too, saddled with a somewhat stereotypical restless female in a sort of limbo between girlhood and womanhood (even though she’s years beyond the former). There’s a moment in the film where her Mary says she hates it when she opens the door for someone in a busy store, and the next person doesn’t do the same for those behind them. It sounds like the words of an altruistic person, but Mary isn’t interested in the act, she’s annoyed because she did a good thing hoping to get some result – not just out of general goodness. Mary’s personality seems like a fair representation of the film itself. She’s simultaneously smug and insecure and she’s consistently subverting her own mantra by being ridiculous and immature at times. Please Give thinks it has more to offer than it does, and you can sort of feel [ ] sitting down waiting for us to praise her naturalism or something akin. The narrative is never forced, but it’s neither fluid. It’s a credible first attempt, but without the superior support from the cast there’d be nothing to note about Please Give.