Movies like “Lovely & Amazing,” “Friends with Money” and “Walking and Talking” traffic in similar dramatic circles, with the great Catherine Keener on hand to provide a feminine anchor.
That changed a bit after she delivered 2013’s “Enough Said,” which was as good as her previous films but starred the late James Gandofini in one of his last roles.
The director documents middle-class malaise as few of her peers can, which she did expertly with 2010’s “Please Give.” The drama manages more than her typical X-ray of her preferred social class.
It doesn’t help that Kate’s daughter (Sarah Steele) craves a $200 pair of jeans, a reminder where their tainted money goes.
When the family invites sisters Rebecca (Rebecca Hall) and Mary (Amanda Peet) over for dinner, it rattles Kate’s precarious mental state. Alex and Mary start an unlikely affair – their first kiss happens while Mary is giving Alex a facial. And the sisters’ crotchety Grandma (scene-stealer Ann Guilbert) puts a human face on Kate’s business.
Suddenly, Kate starts reaching out to area homeless people and tries to give time to any charity that will have her. But she’s hardly in shape to give of herself, what with her moral compass so thoroughly out of whack.
DID YOU KNOW: Not only does Nicole Holofcenter deliver smart indie fare, she’s responsible for directing TV episodes of “Orange Is the New Black,” “Togetherness” and “Inside Amy Schumer.”
Like most of Holofcener’s films, “Please Give’s” actual plot is hardly a reason to spend two hours with her characters. But her voice has never been sharper, her ability to show outwardly successful types rarely so unflinching.
Alex flirts with Mary by talking about “The Howard Stern Show,” the two sharing tidbits from the show like naughty secrets passed around in Algebra class. Platt too often goes for broad, clownish roles, but he’s at his best playing the Everyman with a secret.
Holofcenter finds unexpected truths in Kate’s search for charity, all the while we watch these flawed characters grow in small but wonderful ways.
“Please Give” finds Holofcener graduating to a new level of filmmaking, with or without any nominations to reward her noble efforts.