Santa Cruz Good Times

Thursday
Apr 17th
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Crocodile Tears

film_PLEASEGIVEstill2Class, guilt and privilege converge in an unconvincing 'Please Give'
Nicole Holofcener is becoming the bard of upper middle-class, white ineffectuality. Her last film, Friends With Money, was an astoundingly lame look at useless L. A. women making foolish choices, adrift in their own lives. In her angsty new comedy, Please Give, Holofcener switches the action to New York City, but sticks to the same milieu of clueless privilege, trapping her excellent cast in a lineup of dubious characters whose behavior ranges from merely baffling to downright unpleasant. To make it all feel more weighty, Holofcener tosses in an element of all-purpose white liberal guilt. But like so many other elements in the story, she really doesn't know how to use it to good effect.

Holofcener's longtime muse and accomplice, Catherine Keener, again stars. She and the entertaining Oliver Platt play Kate and Alex, a long-married couple who are also business partners in a trendy furniture resale shop in downtown Manhattan. They acquire their stock from the estates of the recently deceased, whose relatives are eager to get rid of all of mom's or grandma's old "junk." Kate buys it for a song, and she and Alex sell it to antiques collectors at a tidy profit.

But Kate is starting to feel queasy about the whole operation; it's becoming one more thing to feel guilty about for a woman already on a mission to "save the world," according to her caustic 15-year-old daughter, Abby (Sarah Steele). Kate can't walk down the street without doling out fives and twenties to the neighborhood homeless people. Given to weeping jags over the state of humanity, she keeps trying to find volunteer work, but close encounters with the elderly in a nursing home, or special needs kids in an after-school program make her too sad.

Kate and Alex have also purchased the apartment next door in their swanky building, with the stipulation that the current tenant can stay there for the remainder of her life. That would be 91-year-old Andra (Ann Guilbert, beloved as neighbor Millie on the old Dick Van Dyke TV show), a tough, lonely, mostly housebound old bird who doesn't mince words and has outlived all her friends.

Kate, of course, feels guilty that her family is just waiting for Andra to die so they can knock out the walls between the two apartments and expand their living space. So she tries to befriend the two granddaughters who come in to care for her. Loyal, patient Rebecca (Rebecca Hall), a radiologist who conducts mammogram screenings, visits every day. Her bitchy sister Mary (Amanda Peet), who gives mediocre facials in a skincare spa and is obsessed with tanning, only visits under duress, and makes no secret of her dislike for Granny and her hopes for the old lady's speedy demise.

But once these prickly characters are in place, Holofcener doesn't really take them anywhere. Mary's non-stop vitriol becomes exhausting. Kate's feeble attempts to act on her random guilt feelings, personally and professionally, are clumsy and ineffectual. (Indeed, the horrible closing scene seems to suggest that getting over her guilt and embracing her privileged status has been the point of Kate's story arc all along.) When Alex has something specific to feel guilty about (in a less-than-credible subplot), it too amounts to nothing, either in his life or in the film's plot.

Thematic ideas about consumerism and the indignity of old age surface now and then; there's irony in the way objects increase in value as they age, while the apparent worth to society of the aging people who own them declines. And there's a breezy running gag about film_please_givehow everyone in the city is all afire to go upstate to see "the leaves" (that is, the autumnal colors), as if they were some hot Broadway show in a limited run. Holofcener coaxes some nice performances out of her players, but she never digs deeply enough into her themes or characters; she settles for wistfulness over insight. And the facile way she absolves her characters (a sisterly squeeze; a pair of expensive jeans) suggests the filmmakers’ sense of compassion, like Kate's, is only so many crocodile tears.

PLEASE GIVE ★★ With Rebecca Hall, Catherine Keener, Oliver Platt, and Amanda Peet. Written and directed by Nicole Holofcener. A Sony Classics release. Rated R. 90 minutes. Watch film trailer >>>

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Growing Hope

Campos Seguros combats sexual assault in the Watsonville farmworker community Farm work was a way of life for Rocio Camargo, who grew up in Watsonville as the daughter of Mexican immigrants. Her parents met while working the fields 30 years ago, and her father went on to run Fuentes Berry Farms.

 

Cardinal Grand Cross in the Sky

Following Holy Week (passion, death and burial of the Pisces World Teacher) and Easter Sunday (Resurrection Festival), from April 19 to the 23, the long-awaited and discussed Cardinal Cross of Change appears in the sky, composed of Cardinal signs Aries, Libra, Cancer, and Capricorn, with planets (13-14 degrees) Uranus (in Aries), Jupiter (in Cancer), Mars (in Libra) and Pluto (in Capricorn), an actual geometrical square or cross configuration. Cardinal signs mark the seasons of change, initiating new realities.

 

Sugar: The New Tobacco?

Proposed bill would require warning labels on sugary drinks Will soda and other saccharine libations soon come with a health warning? They will if it’s up to our state senator, Bill Monning (D-Carmel). On Feb. 27, Monning proposed first-of-its-kind legislation that would require a consumer warning label be placed on sugar-sweetened beverages sold in California. SB 1000, also known as the Sugar-Sweetened Beverages Safety Warning Act, was proposed to provide vital information to consumers about the harmful effects of consuming sugary drinks, such as sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and sweetened teas.

 

Animal Magnetism

Bear, mouse dare to be friends in charming ‘Ernest and Celestine’ It’s not exactly Romeo and Juliet. It’s not even a romance, although it is a love story about two individuals separated by prejudice who find the courage to form an unshakable bond despite the rules and traditions that keep them apart.
Sign up for Tomorrow's Good Times Today
Upcoming arts & events

Latest Comments

 

Foodie File: Red Apple Cafe

Breakfast takes center stage at Gracia Krakauer's Red Apple Cafe Before they moved to Aptos, Gracia and her husband Dan Krakauer would visit friends in Santa Cruz County and eat at the Red Apple Café all the time. Then they moved up here from Santa Monica five years ago, and bought the Aptos location (there’s a separate one in Watsonville) from the family who owned it for two decades.

 

How would you feel about a tech industry boom in Santa Cruz?

I feel like it would ruin the small old-town feeling of Santa Cruz. It wouldn’t be the same Surf City kind of vacation town that it is. Antoinette BennettSanta Cruz | Construction Management

 

Best of Santa Cruz County

The 2013 Santa Cruz County Readers' Poll and Critics’ Picks It’s our biggest issue of the year, and in it, your votes—more than 6,500 of them—determined the winners of The Best of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll. New to the long list of local restaurants, shops and other notables that captured your interest: Best Beer Selection, Best Locally Owned Business, Best Customer Service and Best Marijuana Dispensary. In the meantime, many readers were ever so chatty online about potential new categories. Some of the suggestions that stood out: Best Teen Program and Best Web Design/Designer. But what about: Dog Park, Church, Hotel, Local Farm, Therapist (I second that!) or Sports Bar—not to be confused with Bra. Our favorite suggestion: Best Act of Kindness—one reader noted Café Gratitude and the free meals it offered to the Santa Cruz Police Department in the aftermath of recent crimes. Perhaps some of these can be woven into next year’s ballot, so stay tuned. In the meantime, enjoy the following pages and take note of our Critics’ Picks, too, beginning on page 91. A big thanks for voting—and for reading—and an even bigger congratulations to all of the winners. Enjoy.  -Greg Archer, EditorBest of Santa Cruz County Readers’ Poll INDEX

 

Trout Gulch Vineyards

Cinsault 2012—la grande plage diurne The most popular wines on store shelves are those most generally known and available—Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, which are all superb for sure. But when you come across a more unusual varietal, like Trout Gulch Vineyards’ Cinsault ($18), it opens up a whole new world.