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Wed June 2, 2010
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time," "Cinema Classics," and "On the Marquee"
I've heard all the clich?s about New York, and I have a daughter who owns an apartment in Hell's Kitchen, so I know what I'm writing about: If you want a superior cinematic exploration of the contradictions in one of the world's great cities, then see Please Give.
Upper middle class couple Kate (Catherine Keener) and Alex (Oliver Platt) own a shop that sells mid-20th century furniture and kitschy items at prices non-Manhattanites would consider high.
As dramatically interesting is their bid to purchase an adjacent apartment as soon as the elderly grandmother dies. The death watch is the essence of the theme about shameless New Yorkers' acquisitiveness, for which, when it comes to expanding one's own apartment, anything goes. It's especially poignant to watch the liberal, goodhearted Kate give $20 bills to the homeless along the street, volunteer for work that makes her cry, give a valuable vase to a former customer she has taken advantage of, and yet wait for grandma next door to croak.
But that's where writer/director Nicole Holofcener gets it right?New York is full of life's ironic contradictions: Do good and bad in equal measure, feel bad about the bad, and go on living in one of the most glamorous cities ever crafted for the appetitive and the kind hearted. Holofcener treats the issues, from teen age angst to adult infidelity, with a dramatic restraint that allows the scenes to breathe lightly when a teenager berates her mom in public or a husband cheats on his beloved wife.
Keener is a delight with her nuanced, exemplary life, and Amanda Peet as Mary, the seductive granddaughter of the aging neighbor, is spot on in her self-centered charm. The scene in the elevator with Alex, Kate, and Mary is as uncomfortable as any director could hope.
It's all in a delightful, deconstructed New York minute, or so it seems to a former hyper Easterner now laid-back Mid-Westerner.
John DeSando teaches film at Franklin University and co-hosts WCBE 90.5's It's Movie Time, Cinema Classics, and On the Marquee, which can be heard streaming at http://publicbroadcasting.net/wcbe/ppr/index.shtml and on demand at http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/wcbe/arts.artsmain Contact him at JDeSando@Columbus.RR.com