By Lisa Schwarzbaum
April 30, 2010 at 04:00 AM EDT
Piotr Redlinski

Please Give

  • Movie

Kate, the Manhattanite wife and mother played by Catherine Keener in Nicole Holofcener’s marvelously observed new domestic drama Please Give, is a vivid catalog of ambivalences familiar to millions of women of a certain boomer age and socioeconomic level. She’s married to Alex (Oliver Platt), an amiable man with whom she shares a successful business selling vintage furniture, but she’s prone to jags of dissatisfaction. She’s the loving mother of a spunky teenage daughter (Sarah Steele), but she’s given to flare-ups of insensitivity. She enjoys her city comforts, but she’s afflicted with guilt for being a have while have-nots sleep on the street outside her door. Bound by peculiar NYC real estate circumstances to the elderly tenant next door — Kate and Alex own the old lady’s apartment, and will be able be able to combine units and expand their own living space when she dies — the couple also crosses paths with Rebecca Hall and Amanda Peet as the neighbor?s adult granddaughters.

Kate is a close relative of the complicated women who regularly populate Holofcener’s smart, articulate, female-centric movies — women previously played by Keener in the filmmaker’s Walking and Talking (1996); Lovely & Amazing (2001); and Friends With Money (2006). Indeed, with Keener’s unique ability to portray characters who are simultaneously blunt (and even abrasive) but also soft and vulnerable, the actress has become the embodiment of a Holofcener woman. More than that, with their shared characteristics of sex, age, motherhood, and brunet hair, Keener has ­become Holofcener’s artistic alter ego. In Please Give, the sharp-eyed filmmaker sends her vibrant representative out into the world to explore what it means for a woman to be lucky and still feel itchy. The report has the resonant ring of truth. A-

Watch the trailer

See all of this week’s reviews

Please Give

  • Movie
  • R
  • 90 minutes
Complete Coverage
  • Please Give