Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Please Give (2010)

I'm sorry for not posting in so long. I could make an excuse about the holidays or that I had some sort of family trauma, but in reality, I simply fell out of the movie watching habit for a while and I couldn't think of much to add. While that's a pretty piss poor excuse on its own, I've been watching more movies as of late, mostly recent due to my attempt to catch up on Oscar season (Which really shot my in the foot given the results of last year's Best Actress win). But, my long dead laptop has been fixed, so I should be able to post article more frequently since I could really only use the family computer in the mornings.

I considered posting on the amazing Winter's Bone but I decided to go with a really great movie that slid under the radar and probably should have resulted in some Oscar love for Catherine Keener.

The film follows Kate (Keener) and Alex (Oliver Platt) a New York couple who own a furniture store, where most of their stock is provided by offering cheap deals to the children of the recently deceased who are eager to clean out their parents' now empty homes. They're also anticipating the death of their 91 year old neighbor Andra (Ann Morgan Gilbert) since it will allow for them to expand their apartment. Their lives become intertwined with that of Andra's two granddaughters Rebecca (Rebecca Hall) and Mary (Amanda Peet). Rebecca dutifully takes care of her grandmother, feeling a sense of obligation and loyalty towards her whereas Mary has a rather different view of their grandmother, seeing her as a selfish bitch.

Catherine Keener really delivers a wonderful performance here, even though the cast as a whole is incredibly strong (Especially Peet, who surprised me with her incredibly bitchy lines). Kate is a rather conflicted woman, her life is funded by the death and misfortune of others, so as a way to comfort herself, she tries to do small acts of kindness to alleviate this guilt such a giving money to the homeless or even letting a transient sleep in her apartment. The film also demonstrates small little self-perpetuated lies that she tells in an effort to make her actions seem more charitable, such as her insistence that the building super's wife is ill, when the film later shows that it's not the case at all.

The film is smartly written and makes an effort to show that none of these characters are perfect, no one is "right". Rebecca and Mary have differing opinions on their grandmother, and through watching the actions of Andra, we see that neither is totally right. Even Kate and Alex's daughter Abby (Sarah Steele) exhibits teenage angst, , insight, and childishness. It's refreshing to see a movie where the characters so so well-rounded.

Plus, the film explores a universal trait that most people share. We all feel guilt in our lives about some action we did or some mean thing we said and we use acts of kindness as a way to pat our own backs, as reassurance that "Hey, I'm not a horrible person". It's not the best human trait, but it's something that's nice to see explored in such capable hands.

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