“Please Give” is a small indie movie in which the cumulative effect of the acting and dialogue outweighs the film’s shortcomings. Set in New York City it is the story of real estate, of neighbors, of young and old, of lovers and adulterers. In other words, it’s everyday life in the big city.
Catherine Keener and Oliver Platt are a married couple who run an upscale vintage furniture store. It’s the kind of place where sofas aren’t called sofas, or chesterfields, but referred to by their designer’s name—Corbeau or Eames. In a ghoulish (but common NYC practice) they purchased the apartment next door to theirs and are waiting for the elderly tenant (Ann Marie Guilbert) to pass away so they can renovate and take over her space. Until then the old lady is looked after by her two granddaughters, the troubled Mary (Amanda Peet) and Rebecca (Rebecca Hall), a kind hearted but quiet mammography technician (mamogrammist, maybe?). Mix in some liberal guilt, acne and two hundred dollar jeans and you have a story short on drama but bubbling with real feelings.
“Please Give” doesn’t have much of a story, and often feels more like a series of situations strung together than an actual film, but it does have interesting characters.
Keener and Platt have the easy way about them of a couple who have been together for many years. They are like well worn in shoes, comfortable and maybe just a bit stale.
She’s slowly becoming consumed by guilt. Guilt because they are well off, guilt because they make money reselling dead people’s furniture for a profit, guilt, because she doesn’t feel worse about waiting for the woman next door to die.
He’s on the edge of a mid-life crisis, and finds himself flirting with Rebecca’s pretty sister Mary at a dinner party. Keener and Platt make much of the material, adding layers of complexity to their characters through their performances. Both are thinly written, particularly Platt’s mid life meltdown, and although they could have simply been vessels for the film’s comments on New York life, the actors keep it real.
The knockout performances belong to Rebecca Hall and Amanda Peet as sisters with very different outlooks on life. As with Keener and Platt, the characters feel underwritten, but both blossom on the screen. Hall, so striking in “Vicky Christina Barcelona,” is mousey and withdrawn for much of the film but comes out of her shell and Peet is a fireball of neurosis; unlikable and emotionally damaged.
“Please Give” is a small movie that will likely only find a small audience but is worth a look to see some very good actors do some very good work.