The Review: “So no one told you life was gonna be this way…” Six people living in two neighbouring apartments in a New York apartment block and their intertwining lives. But Friends: The Movie this ain’t. There are other TV links, though; writer and director Nicole Holofcener has learned her trade by both writing and directing for TV, in the case of the latter for Sex and the City and Six Feet Under, so she comes with a strong pedigree. What also comes through from her experience is the sense of honesty that both series at their best were capable of exhibiting, in the lives of the central characters, ranging in age in this case from teenage to death’s door.
I’ve just lost a lot of weight over the past year, and it’s interesting seeing people’s reactions. Some are happy to tell you to your face that they thought you were overweight, but would never have said that at the time; some notice when you lose even a small amount of weight and others don’t seem to notice as the weight falls off, but you’re never sure if they’re thinking something, and just don’t want to say. Please Give seems to have captured almost perfectly the knack of exploring these types of social situations, from the mundane to the uncomfortable, with the reactions being sometimes surprising, often amusing but never feeling forced. At the same time, each of the characters comes to reflect at some point or another on their chosen occupation, or in some cases what they feel called to do, and how their own morals and character have led them to the choices they’ve made and the situations they’re in.
The material is typical of other New York movie acolytes such as Woody Allen, in that the characters find themselves in a situation rather than being driven or carried along by a plot, and it’s their reactions in this situation that give the movie its momentum. To make movies like this work, you need a good ensemble of actors, and the name actors appearing (Catherine Keener, Oliver Platt, Rebecca Hall and Amanda Peet) all bring a lot to their roles without ever being showy. Mentions must go to the other two members of the central ensemble, Anne Guilbert and Sarah Steele, who are least the equal of their more famous colleagues.
What Please Give doesn’t do is anything stunningly original or incredibly daring, but what it does do is present an extremely satisfying and very enjoyable study of people’s reactions to and interactions with each other, and it does so without ever feeling the need to resort to the cynicism which is often to be found in this kind of movie. Holofcener should be applauded for what she’s achieved here, as it all feels effortless, but movies like this don’t come along often enough these days.
Why see it at the cinema: It seems like making movies like this has become something of a lost art, so show your appreciation by forking out for a ticket. And take some of your friends while you’re at it.
The Score: 9/10