DVD Review: PLEASE GIVE
Making a film about Middle-Class guilt is a tricky business. You risk alienating your audience with self-indulgent material about a person who is sad because life is just a bit sad, you risk boring people with slow and empty plots, and you risk creating characters with whom it's hard to connect on a real level. (We all think it's sad when someone dies, many of us are less sad when someone is unhappy with their comfortable-yet-unfulfilling lives). The trick seems to be in the nuances, in how you convey the detailed composition of these sadnesses so that we can all understand what it is that's sparked the problems of the person on screen. Writer/Director Nicole Holofcener realises this, and cleverly throws together a collection of well-observed characters each at a crucial point in their lives in this intriguing indie drama. And guess what? Unlike many indies of the last few years - there's no quirky twist! They don't live on a boat, they aren't seeing angry dwarves who stalk them, and it's not the 80s. These are just ordinary people with ordinary problems. Now that's a sign of storytelling confidence. Central to the tale is Kate (Catherine Keener) who, along with her husband Alex (Oliver Platt), runs a swanky boutique store. The couple essentially clear out flats of the recently deceased, selecting the best bits of furniture, buying them at low prices, and reselling at outrageously high prices. They've been running the business for many years, but lately Kate has been questioning the ethics behind her actions - particularly when so many around her are struggling to get by. Illustrative of this is neighbour Rebecca (Rebecca Hall), whose life is almost entirely dedicated to looking after her elderly grandmother. Her sister Mary (Amanda Peet), meanwhile, is unsympathetic. She's been dumped by her boyfriend for a younger woman, and is far too busy stalking her usurper to help out with her cranky old grandmother. Importantly, each of these characters retains the ability to see or create moments of comedy that make their problems bearable. Just like in real life, we're gifted the chance to laugh at the idiosyncrasies that surround us and that makes all of the pain bearable. Holofcener also shows us enough hope that we never feel these problems are insurmountable, and thus are left feeling quietly confident that we can cope with whatever life throws our way. In the end, it's not so much the societal commentary that the title implies but is in fact a sensitive series of vignettes of flawed lives, which interweave with the slightest of connections: something we can identify with I'm sure.