Last night, one of my dear friends got married and the party went long into the morning hours. As a result, I am unable to make it to the Hollywood Cemetery for Day 44's screening of the original Invasion of the Body Snatchers (I would only represent a living zombie if I did). Thankfully, the Laemmle Monica is within half-conscious stumbling distance of my house. I will instead report on an afternoon screening of Please Give. Then, I will promptly go back to bed.
My choice of Please Give - an independent dramedy from writer/director Nicole Holofcener - is not a random selection. It came highly recommended from one of my all-time favorite critics, Leonard Maltin. After Day 42's screening of Knight and Day, we talked to Mr. Maltin in the Fox parking lot, told him about our blog project and got his scoop on the movie season so far. While effusive - understandably - about this weekend's awesome Toy Story 3, he raved more about Please Give, a smaller film starring the always excellent Catherine Keener, Oliver Platt, Amanda Peet and British wunderkind Rebecca Hall.
Maltin was right. This is the kind of movie that discerning moviegoers recommend to discerning moviegoers. It involves a New York couple played by Keener and Platt that buy old furniture low from people whose loved ones have passed away, and sell high to people with deep pockets. The wife character, though, feels guilty about their business, and the apartment they own next door, which they can only claim after the old lady in it dies. That woman's granddaughters (Peet and Hall) become mixed up with the couple, too, and their normal, complicated teen daughter.
The trick of the movie, as with Holofcener's previous efforts Walking and Talking, Lovely and Amazing and Friends with Money, is the way she can create regular, complex, everyday people who hold our attention better than a million Michael Bay robots and Jake Gyllenhaal with a sword. And yes, it does help that Keener - an actress apparently incapable of giving bad performances - has starred in all of her movies.
Nevermind the title - this isn't a documentary about UNICEF. The movie's point lies in simple phrases at the very end..."Thank you"...and "you're welcome." By the time you get there, you'll be happy to realize what that means.