Please Give (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)
October 13, 2010 by Dennis Amith
“Please Give” is deeply entertaining and satisfying. Its characters are contradictory, interesting and for the most part, we see them change by the end of the film. It’s a dramedy that aims to look at life, to enjoy life and not take advantage of it. Definitely a Blu-ray release worth watching!
© 2010 Sony Pictures Classics Inc. All Rights Reserved.
TITLE: Please Give
FILM RELEASE: 2010
DURATION: 90 Minutes
BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (2:25:1), English, French 5.1 DTS HD-MA, Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish
COMPANY: Sony Pictures Classics
RATED: R (Language, Some Sexual Content and Nudity)
Release Date: October 19, 2010
Written and Directed by Nicole Holofcener
Produced by Anthony Bregman
Associate Producer: Stefanie Azpiazu
Line Producer: Caroline Jaczko
Music by Marcelo Zarvos
Cinematography by Yaron Orbach
Edited by Robert Frazen
Production Design by Mark White
Art Direction by Lauren Fitzsimmons
Set Decoration by Kim Chapman
Costume Design by Ane Crabtree
Catherine Keener as Kate
Amanda Peet as Mary
Oliver Platt as Alex
Rebecca Hall as Rebecca
Elizabeth Keener as Cathy
Elise Ivy as Marissa
Thomas Ian Nicholas as Eugene
Josh Pais as Adam
Sarah Steele as Abby
Ann Morgan Guilbert as Andra
Married antique-dealers, Kate and Alex (Catherine Keener and Oliver Platt) plan on gutting the apartment they own next door to expand their own pad once Andra, the cranky, elderly widow (Ann Guilbert) who lives there, finally dies. When Kate, conflicted with her own guilt, befriends Andra’s granddaughters (Rebecca Hall and Amanda Peet), the results are anything but predictable in this devastatingly funny comedy that examines life and death… and everything in between!
Filmmaker and screenwriter Nicole Holfcener definitely knows how to writer stories that involve complex relationships.
From her 2006 hit film “friends with money” and the 2001 film “Lovely & Amazing”, Holfcener has managed to craft a film titled “Please Give” with a smart, humorous, vibrant and enjoyable storyline and an emphasis on the characters. Managing to capture the complications and vulnerabilities in relationships between a husband and wife, a mother and daughter, the mother and those less fortunate and their relationship to those around them.
“Please Give” may not have been a spring blockbuster title but considering that this film was made for $3 million, screened in limited theaters, it did make over $4 million in the box office and also received mostly positive reviews and now, it’s being released on Blu-ray and DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics.
The film revolves around a successful business owner named Kate (played by Catherine Keener, “Where the Wild Things Are”, “The Soloist”, “Friends with Money”, “The 40-Year-Old Virgin”) who runs a Manhattan furniture store with her husband Alex (played by Oliver Platt, “2012″, “Huff”, “The West Wing”). The two make a lot of money by purchasing the belongings of the dead and reselling them for more than what they are worth.
The two are parents to a teenager named Abby (played by Sarah Steele, “Spanglish”, “The Lucky Ones”) who is going through the combative teenage time in her life and her relationship with her mother is good at times and bad as well. Especially when she sees her mother giving out money to the poor, while she feels that she doesn’t get anything. She wants jeans that cost $200 and her mother won’t buy it for her and it angers her. If anything, growing up with zits and all bothers her.
But the family lives in an apartment that they want to make larger and remodel but they can only do that if their neighbor, a mean 91-year-old woman named Andra (played by Ann Guilbert, “The Andy Griffith Show”, “The Dick Van Dyke Show”) dies.
Living with Andra are her two granddaughters, the youngest and the one most kindest to her, Rebecca (played by Rebecca Hall, “Frost/Nixon”, “Vicki Cristina Barcelona”, “Dorian Gray”) and the oldest and the one most mean to her, Mary (played by Amanda Peet, “2012″, “$5 a Day”, “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip”).
Rebecca is somewhat of an introvert and spends a lot of time taking care of her grandmother and when she’s not at home, she’s working as a breast cancer radiology technician at a mammography clinic. Everyone asks her if she is going to check out the leaves changing for the season but being the outgoing person that she is, Rebecca is not interested.
Meanwhile, Mary is blunt and a self-centered cosmetologist who says whatever is on her mind, especially her dislike towards her grandmother.
“Please Give” shows us the relationships that take place between these two families but mostly on the character of Kate, who feels more guilty as she begins to profit from the dead and she tries to overcome the guilt by giving money to the homeless and trying to volunteer at various charities. But we get to see how her character is consumed by guilt of taking advantage of families who have lost a love one and starts to realize that by doing that and making money off them, she lives an unhappy life because her happiness is achieved through those who die. And now, she finds her family and herself wanting her aging neighbor to die, so they can have a bigger apartment.
She is unhappy with herself and she tries to do what she can to make herself a good person. But when Kate invites her neighbors for dinner, the meeting will surely change the lives of both families in more ways than they know.
“Please Give” is presented in 1080p High Definition (2:35:1). The film doesn’t have the detail that I would have expected but it’s not due to how the film was mastered but that the film was shot using 16mm cameras. So, there is less detail than a 35mm transfer. But I’m not too surprised, considering that this film was made on a very tight and low budget. For the most part, skin tones are natural, blacks are nice and deep. But detail-wise, the picture quality is not as detailed as I would have liked but considering the circumstance, I was not expecting anything too significant and for the most part, picture quality is good…not great but good.
AUDIO & SUBTITLES:
“Please Give” is presented in English and French 5.1 DTS-HD MA and this is pretty much a dialogue-driven film. I didn’t notice any surround usage or anything that required massive audio since most of the time, the film is shot in very few indoor locations. But dialogue and lossless audio is clear and understandable from the center and front channels.
Subtitles are presented in English, English SDH, French and Spanish.
“Please Give” comes with the following special features in standard and high definition, English Stereo (and mono) and optional English subtitles:
- Behind the Scenes of Please Give – (12:08) Featuring behind-the-scenes footage of the film. Cast and crew talk about the story and about the characters.
- Outtakes - (3:58) Outtakes from “Please Give” presented in standard def.
- Nicole Holofcener Q&A – (8:24) Featuring four Film Independent Q&A sessions with writer/director Nicole Holofcener presented in standard def. From discussion of working on the film, being uncomfortable about casting, her grandmother’s influence on the film, working on new project and more.
- Theatrical Trailer – (2:02) The original theatrical trailer for “Please Give”.
If there is one thing that can be said about Nicole Holofcener’s films, its her utilization of the actress Catherine Keener. Together, the have worked magnificently in the four films they have done together and “Please Give” really showcases Catherine Keener, the actress, in possibly the most emotional role that she has had yet.
For the role of Kate, Catherine Keener does an impeccable job of playing Kate, a woman who loves making money. It’s a drive to become successful but the fact that she preys on the grieving and the dead and almost shows no compassion by doing it, shows you that perhaps she is determined by greed and it’s a lifestyle that has functioned quite well through her family and her husband has supported.
Of course, this doesn’t last as we see Kate being consumed by guilt and how it starts to consume her and make her an emotional mess. I found it quite interesting to see how Kate’s benevolence was not about the kindness in her heart but the guilt that because she profits from the dead, she feels that her helping the poor or taking care of those in need will make her a better person. But she knows that random acts of kindness done on covering the the guilt. The guilt that she is a greedy woman who preys on grieving families that don’t know better and the dead for their own personal property. And no matter what she does for charity and her random acts of kindness, her benevolence is not pure from the heart, it’s out of guilt. And life will not change for the better until she makes positive changes in her life.
As we have seen in previous Holofcener films, she knows how to capture complex relationships and I felt the relationship between Kate and her daughter Abby was quite interesting. For one, if a daughter requests her parents or starts to whine about their parents not wanting to buy them a $200 pair of jeans, most parents would not give in. Especially for jeans at that price.
But the difference is that Abby was brought up in a family that preys on dead people, profits highly on dead people and sees her mom just blowing money by giving $5-$20 bills to any homeless living around their street. So, I can see how her daughter would be perturbed that her mother is willing to give out possibly hundreds of dollars a week to the homeless and nothing for her daughter, I can easily understand her daughter’s resentment. But I did enjoy the communicative spat between mother and daughter and both Catherine Keener and Sarah Steele did a good job on that.
As for Oliver Platt, he played a very convincing role as the supportive husband but at the same time, showing him as a guy who also thinks between his legs, loves Howard Stern and ends up doing something that the viewer probably not have seen coming. That was quite interesting.
While the main storyline does tend to focus on Kate and her family, we do get quite a bit of Rebecca and Mary, the two granddaughters who are so different from each other. Rebecca who is an introvert finds redemption when she finds a good guy that she ends up dating and then Mary being this mean, self-centered alcoholic that doesn’t care what she says and does whatever she wants (and very interesting when see start to see young Abby starting to like Mary and how direct she is).
These are complex relationships captured perfectly and the performances are well-done, to the point that they seem authentic, especially coming from Catherine Keener, who does a magnificent job.
But if anything, it’s the structure that Holofcener builds upon in this film that works. Concentrating on six characters and how each are changed by their experiences throughout the film. It was well-written and characters were well-developed. In fact, we see a little of Holofcener’s appreciation and influence by filmmaker Woody Allen in “Please Give” when it comes to the structure of the film, especially the utilization of unrelated segments.
While “Please Give” is an entertaining film, one will feel that there should be more to the Blu-ray release. For one, it would have been a wonderful film to have an audio commentary track by writer/director Nicole Holofcener and even some of the cast members. But what we do get are outtakes, behind-the-scenes footage and short Q&A with the director. Picture quality is fine as it was shot via 16mm and audio is dialogue-driven, so it’s not a Blu-ray release where you would expect anything significant but it is a good Blu-ray release.
Overall, “Please Give” is deeply entertaining and satisfying. Its characters are contradictory, interesting and for the most part, we see them change by the end of the film. “Please Give” is a well-done dramedy that aims to look at life, to enjoy life and not take advantage of it. Sporting wonderful performances, it may not be significantly deep but it is a film that manages to win you over.
Definitely a Blu-ray release worth watching!
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