Sundance Review: "Please Give"

The joy of watching a Nicole Holofcener film is that her films are the antithesis of self-indulgence. As a writer/director, Holofcener has it down to an art: be as economical as you can, tell the story you want and do not waste a word or a frame. Clocking in at exactly 90 minutes, her latest work, "Please Give", is a lesson for all filmmakers, to tell a story in a solid amount of time instead of following the Hollywood excess model.

In "Please Give", Kate (Catherine Keener) and Alex (Oliver Platt), a married couple who run a successful business reselling estate-sale furniture, live in Manhattan with their teenage daughter, Abby. Wanting to expand their two-bedroom apartment, they buy the unit next door, planning to knock the walls out. However, before doing so, they have to wait for the occupant, Andra, a cranky elderly woman, to die. The wait becomes complicated when the family develops relationships with Andra and her two grown granddaughters (the gorgeous Amanda Peet and the talented Brit actress Rebecca Hall).

"Please Give", which Sony Classics will release in the US in May, allows the director, many of whose films have premiered at Sundance, to do what she does best: explore the fragility and foibles of human behaviour pretty much as life is presented to us, with both comedy and tragedy. Her work is full of richly defined characters, often women, going through crises and yet she never succumbs to conventional Hollywood tradition by coming up with clear cut solutions. After all, life is not full of happy endings.

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