Santa Cruz Good Times

Monday
Jul 06th
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

 

The Boards Are Back in Town

More than a century after a famed trio of Hawaiian princes first surfed in Santa Cruz, their redwood olo surfboards are returning to the Museum of Art & History

 

We Hold These Truths to Be Self-Evident

Saturday, July 4, is the 239th birthday of the United States, commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence (the U.S. astrology chart has Aquarius moon—freedom for its people, by its people). Cancer, a liberating and initiating sign, is the “gate” where Spirit enters matter. Cancer receives and distributes Ray 3 (Divine Intelligence) and Ray 7 (new rules, new rhythms, new free nation under God). Cancer represents an intelligent freethinking humanity that can and must create right economics for the world. This means a policy of sharing, an opportunity for the U.S. when Venus (money, resources, possessions, etc.) retrogrades July and August in Leo (the heart of the matter). The United States has a unique spiritual task for the world: to lead humanity within and toward the light, accomplished by its people who must first awaken to this task, learn discrimination and be directed by the soul to assume the Herculean task of spiritual world leadership. Let us review the first words of our Constitution: “We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this constitution for the United States of America.” Let us form that union together. The following is a review of the spiritual tasks for each sign. Read all the signs. They all apply to everyone.  

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of July 3

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Lunch is Packed

Picnic basket lunches from Your Place, plus smoked chili peppers, and new owners at Camellia Tea House

 

What would you like the Supreme Court to rule on next?

Raising the minimum wage so that those that are in poverty now can have a higher standard of life. Greanna Smith, Soquel, Nanny

 

Bruzzone Family Vineyards

Bruzzone Family Vineyards is a small operation run by Berna and John Bruzzone. Starting out a few years ago making only Chardonnay, they eventually planted Pinot Noir on their extensive property and now make this varietal as well.

 

Ty’s Eatery

Pop-up hooks up with Santa Cruz Food Lounge for healthy comfort food