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Jun 14, 2010

Fletch's Film Review: Please Give

Imagine my surprise when, upon exiting Nicole Holofcener's latest film, Mrs. Fletch turned and said to me something along the lines of "Thanks for taking me to a chick flick!" Note: this sentiment was uttered in the mode of sarcasm, as she is no more inclined to the 27 Dresses and Sex and the Citys of this world than I am. Why was I surprised then, you might ask? Because I wasn't aware that we had just walked out of a chick flick, as the apparently dreaded "e word" - emotional - escaped the lips of Mrs. Fletch.

To be certain, Holofcener's films - among them Walking and Talking and Lovely and Amazing - are female-heavy, at least compared to the vast majority of American-made films these days, independently-made or otherwise. And yes, a range of emotions are on board as well - everything from grief to elation to guilt to indifference to sorrow and many, many more. But just because someone sheds a tear don't make it no chick flick, unless The Hurt Locker was poorly classified all this time. So I'm left wondering what made this film feel "chickier" than other dramas we might've seen over the years together. If I were to compare the tone and style of Please Give to other recent releases, it would probably fit somewhere in between The Savages, Slums of Beverly Hills, and Two Days in Paris (and perhaps even into Little Miss Sunshine-land) - squarely into the realm of "slice-of-life family-focused independent dramedies." Just with more women than men onscreen.

Perhaps I'm just being overly sensitive (fitting, no?) about that label only because I thought Please Give to be much better than the stereotypical "chick flick," whereas the Mrs. didn't share that love. I didn't much care for Holofcener's previous directorial effort, Friends with Money (call it the Aniston Curse, if nothing else), but it's clear from watching Please that she's a strong writer. How clear her voice is may be debatable, but she's crafted a poignant, very funny film with a diverse selection of Manhattanite characters, from saintly Rebecca Hall to her bitter, hilariously off-the-cuff grandmother, played with glee by Ann Morgan Guilbert, and various shades of grey in between.

The film takes place at the intersection of two families - the first led by frequent collaborator Catherine Keener, a small-business owner with her husband (the always affable Oliver Platt) of a vintage furniture store. The couple gathers much of their wares via the recently dearly departed, haggling with the sons and daughters over the worth of their deceased parents' 60-year old lamps and vases (welcome sight and FF-UN Kevin Corrigan makes an all-too-brief appearance as one such next-of-kin). If the guilt from that way of making a living weren't enough for Keener's Kate, the couple is also scheduled to purchase the apartment of their next door neighbor, the aforementioned 91-year old grandmother to Hall's Rebecca, who lives with sister Amanda Peet when she's not taking care of her only living relative. As more or less all of the characters wait for the nonagenarian to pass, we're given a glimpse of their motives for doing so and the impact that has on their pysches.

If it sounds heavy, that's because it can be...at times. But with pimple-popping, Big Backs, self-tanning and the height of a certain former Rookie of the Year all making cameos as topics of the moment, the proceedings are kept light enough not to bog the proceedings down...or letting it slip into the dreaded "chick flick" realm...

Fletch's Film Rating:
"It's in the hole!"
Shaky Cam Rating (details):LAMBScore:
Large Association of Movie BlogsLarge Association of Movie Blogs

2 people have chosen wisely: on "Fletch's Film Review: Please Give"

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

Nice review, and one in a line that make me anxious to see this.

It's a pity how the "chick flick" moniker has become something dreaded, though.

Alex said...

I really love this movie, and Holofcener is quickly becoming one of my favorite screenwriters. Her work is simultaneously hilarious and genuine. Please Give has such a great cast that it's hard to not enjoy, even if it is "chick-flicky" for some!