An unforgiving mammography montage opens Please Give — yes, it’s exactly what you’re thinking — and though it doesn’t have much to do with the movie thematically, it perfectly represents the unique cinematic honesty of writer-director Nicole Holofcener.
The creative force behind such small gems as Friends With Money and Lovely & Amazing, Holofcener explores the contemporary female experience with a camera that is at once empathetic and merciless. In other words, she allows the women in her films to be authentic, independent human beings — especially when it comes to their flaws.
In Please Give, Holofcener regular Catherine Keener plays Kate, a New York City antiques dealer with a genial husband (Oliver Platt) and level-headed teen daughter (Sarah Steele). Despite her comfortable life — or maybe because of it — Kate is also increasingly wracked with guilt: over both her business (which buys valuable furniture on the cheap from families of the recently deceased) and her plans to expand into her neighbor’s apartment as soon as the aged woman dies.
As usual, Holofcener puts a slight plot into motion and then allows the drama to come from the authentic human gestures that bubble up. And so the most powerful parts of Please Give are the smaller moments: Kate and her husband tenderly “spying” on their daughter when they come across her at the corner store; the couple’s candid pillow talk after an uncomfortable dinner party with their elderly neighbor (Ann Guilbert). Most movies wouldn’t have time for such tiny glimpses into “real” lives.