Grand Illusions

'Please Give'

Dealing with a cold, you’ve probably taken one of those “time release” capsules that administer micropellets of antihistamine at intervals, thus ensuring a full night’s sleep. Please Give, written and directed by Nicole Holofcener, is a time-release movie that provides information about its characters in stages, thus ensuring your complicated interest in them.

Consider the first scene. Two attractive New Yorkers, the middle-aged Kate and the twentyish Rebecca, enter their apartment building’s elevator together, with Kate nervously attempting chit-chat, which the younger woman stonily rebuffs. They get out at the same floor, proceed down a hall and let themselves into adjacent apartments, with neither Kate’s uneasiness nor Rebecca’s apparent hostility dispelled. Ah, the big city, we may sigh, breeder of alienation.

But next we are in Kate’s apartment and she is wailing to her teenaged daughter Abby, “Why does she [Rebecca] hate me?” And the girl glibly explains what her mother already knows: “When she sees you, she sees death.” Kate and her husband Alex have purchased the apartment next door but must await the demise of the current occupant, Rebecca’s grandmother, before having the dividing wall demolished to expand their domain. But that doesn’t make me evil, Kate protests. “Right,” her kid snarks back, “you’re a saint.” And actually, though Kate may not be a saint, she is certainly a penitent trying to make up for her sins through charitable acts....

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About the Author

Richard Alleva has been reviewing movies for Commonweal since 1990.