— by JOSIANE OCHMAN —
It’s fortuitous that I was assigned “Please Give” since I’m one one of those people who feels incredibly guilty about the homelessness so prevalent in a city like Vancouver. If I could, I’d like to indulge the readers with a personal anecdote which has some bearing on the film.
I was waiting for a bus when I was approached by a disheveled, obviously hungry, homeless woman. I asked her if I could get her a slice of pizza. She agreed and mentioned that she wanted pepperoni. Unfortunately the pepperoni was sold out so I got her what I felt was a healthy choice: vegetarian. When I came out and offered it to her she rejected it. If pepperoni was unavailable, she now wanted ham and pineapple. I complied. I was elated at this turn of events. It knocked me squarely off my sanctimonious, holier than thou perch. It reminded me that giving shouldn’t be about making the giver feel good. It also reminded me that the homeless don’t necessarily have to be thankful for the crumbs that we throw their way. They have every right to be angry at the unfairness of their situation. They also have the right to demand.
The character of Kate in “Please Give” is one of those earnest sorts of people. She’s beset by doubt and guilt — eager to do the right thing but conflicted in the very choices she makes and how she goes about them.
The clip signals that kind of confusion right off the bat when in the very first scene we witness how even the best of intentions can backfire. Kate wrongly assumes that a man waiting outside for a seat in a restaurant is in need of food and offers him her leftovers. He’s standing, he’s racially mixed, his clothes are not new and thus, in her eyes, he appears to fit her stereotypical profiling of homelessness. There is irony aplenty here but it’s not mean and it doesn’t come at the expense of the characters of Kate and Alex. This telling introduction more or less sets the tone for the rest of the clips which follow. We’re in uncharted territory when it comes to unraveling the mysterious web which links people and actions together.
This is Nicole Holofcener’s fourth movie and all have featured Catherine Keener, a sort of de facto muse, who has the gift to imbue a character with both frailty and resilience. What Holofcener does well is serious comedy and “Please Give” appears to fall squarely in that genre.
There is laughter to be had at the silliness of some of the situations and relationships, but the laughter never comes at the expense of the characters and while there may be a slight undercurrent of political consciousness at work in “Please Give,” it’s not heavy handed or moralizing.
From the brief clip, it’s clear that the director is intent on exploring the contradictions inherent in the acts of both giving and taking in a fundamentally materialistic world. In so doing, she is also intent on exploring the ramifications of both of these acts when it comes to navigating modern relationships within an immediate and extended nucleus of family, friends and neighbors.
Serious comedy is a hard balance to achieve, but Holofcener has proven with past movies that she’s more than up to the task and it’s probably fair to say that “Please Give” is unlikely to disappoint those willing to seek it out.
“Please Give” — which also stars Oliver Platt, Amanda Peet, Rebecca Hall and Thomas Ian Nicholas — premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January.
Source: Trailer Addict
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Follow Josiane Ochman on Twitter at http://twitter.com/PiloteXYZ.