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A Candid Review of “Please Give”

June 3, 2010

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In Please Give, the poignant new dramedy with the most memorable opening scene I’ve ever witnessed, Kate (Catherine Keener) and her husband Alex (Oliver Platt) curate a  second-hand furniture shop where they sell rare and valuable mid-century modern furnishings sourced from recently deceased elderly people. Often, because the loved ones of the dead are so stricken by the grief – and sometimes aggravation – of dealing with the death, they will do anything to have the “junk” removed and hauled away.

Kate and Oliver make a decent living from the shop (often marking up products 20X what they paid for them) and seem to be content with the lives they and their lovable, ripening daughter Abby (Sarah Steele) lead in New York City. But as the movie progresses, we begin to see cracks in Kate’s conscience as she starts to question if she and Alex make an honest living.

Please Give tackles a lot of complex ideas and heartbreaking concepts, most notably our obligations to be truthful with loved ones and complete strangers. Should Alex tell the son and daughter of their recently deceased parent that the armoire they are willing to sell for hundreds of dollars is actually worth thousands? Should Kate tell her adolescent daughter that yes, her cystic pimples are overtaking her face instead of insisting you can’t even notice them? After all, when Mary (Amanda Peet), a new acquaintance that joins them for dinner one night, tells Abby flat out that her skin looks terrible, Abby is relieved to finally hear the honest truth from somebody.

But this begs the question – when is too much truth too much? While honesty is a virtue, too much of it can be painful to hear. Where does that fine line fall, and at what point should we rein in our candidness and with whom? Is the truth reserved for our closest friends or do we have an obligation to be brutally honest with everyone we come in contact with?

Some truths in life, such as acne, are obvious and worn clearly on our face. Others, like the breast cancer one of the characters develops, lie dormant and hidden until we discover them on our own. Which of the two truths is easier to bear, and which do we wish someone would help us come to terms with more?

Please Give is a huge movie that asks these and other penetrating questions. Concurrently, the characters in the movie make huge statements – but not to the people who need to hear them; The husband who cheats on his wife rather than ask her to please give him attention. The introverted nurse who is so desperate for love but too timid to ask someone to please give her a reason to open up. The woman who has turned bitter from a broken heart and takes her anger out on others instead of asking them to please give her a reason to move on.

Please give this movie a chance and pay close attention to the characters and their interactions with others and themselves. I promise you’ll find more than meets the eye.

See where this movie is playing in theatres near you.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Kelly permalink
    June 8, 2010 5:54 am

    I really loved this movie! And as time goes on, I have continued to appreciate the brilliant and understated messages sprinkled throughout. The movie gives a chance to look at the lives of these imperfect characters. I think it would be near impossible to have someone not liken themselves to one of the characters in one way or another. For me, I couldn’t help but contemplate the challenge of living a decent and moral life within our society. Oh and that haunting word, GUILT! We all (well most) have it. The characters, like me, like most, are trying to do the best they can in their circumstances. I found it genius the way the movie steered away from typical Hollywood endings. Take for example the father’s infidelity; he could have been punished in so many ways, but instead his punishment was having his daughter figure it out. Ultimately, we are left never truly knowing whether his wife figured it out, but having his daughter know would be his own personal hell. I feel as though I could make my way to NYC and see the characters living out their lives and continuing their story. If I had to describe the movie in one word it would be, “realistic.” All in all, truly amazing! (Does that make it two words?)

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