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Blu-ray Reviews

HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Please Give



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#1 of 1 Richard Gallagher

Richard Gallagher

    Screenwriter

  • 2,967 posts
  • Join Date: Dec 09 2001
  • Real Name:Rich Gallagher
  • LocationFishkill, NY

Posted October 20 2010 - 05:52 PM

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Please Give

Studio: Sony Pictures Classics
Year: 2010
Rated: R
Program Length: 90 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 1080p
Languages: English, French, 5.1 DTS-HD MA
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish

The Program

Please Give is an amusing and insightful "slice of life" film which features a first-rate ensemble cast and a decidedly New York City sensibility. In some respects it has the feel of a Woody Allen film, which makes sense because the writer/director, Nicole Holofcener, is the stepdaughter of Allen's longtime producer, the late Charles H. Joffe. Holofcener makes small, highly personal films which are inspired by people and incidents she has encountered in her own life. Please Give is a quirky, touching comedy/drama which explores some serious issues, most notably that some people are givers and others are takers. Commendably, Please Give accomplishes this without melodrama or maudlin sentimentality.

Kate (Catherine Keener) and Alex (Oliver Platt) are married and own a used furniture store in Manhattan. The have a 15-year-old daughter, Abby (Sarah Steele), who is bright and personable but is tormented by a serious acne condition. The furniture store is successful, but Kate is conflicted because she and Alex profit from the misfortune of others. They acquire their merchandise by purchasing it from the relatives of people who have died. Living space in Manhattan is limited. Most people do not have basements or garages in which to store things. When they inherit furnishings from a deceased relative, they often do not keep them. They sell them, and that is where Kate and Alex come in.

Kate and Alex could use some more room of their own. Their apartment adjoins one which is the residence of Andra (Ann Morgan Guilbert), the 90-year-old grandmother of Rebecca (Rebecca Hall) and Mary (Amanda Peet). Kate and Alex actually are the owners of Andra's apartment. Years earlier they purchased it from her, with the proviso that Andra could live there until she dies. Once that happens, Kate and Alex plan to knock down the walls and convert the two apartments into one large one. This situation creates some ghoulish awkwardness. Just as the death of people creates business opportunities for them, Kate and Alex must wait for Andra to die before they can realize their plans to improve their living conditions.

Andra is an unpleasant old lady. If the word "tact" ever had a place in Andra's vocabulary, she has long since forgotten its usefulness. She is blunt to the point of rudeness, and she never expresses gratitude to the granddaughters who care for her. Andra's primary caretaker is Rebecca, a radiology technician who spends her days performing mammograms. Nearly every day
Rebecca comes by to check up on Andra, making sure that her grandmother is taking her medicine, and she also fixes meals and runs errands for her. Mary is older and far more glamorous than Rebecca, but she can barely stand being around Andra and is content to let her sister do most of the work.

Kate is conflicted about the fact that her business success is predicated upon the death of others. She tries to alleviate her guilt by handing out $20 bills to homeless people. She signs up as a volunteer to help the elderly and the mentally challenged, but she fails at that because she cannot mask the pity that she feels for those who are less fortunate than her. Although Kate and Alex have been neighbors of Andra for years, they barely know Rebecca and Mary. That all changes when Kate decides to host a birthday dinner for Andra. The lives of the two families quickly begin to intersect in unexpected and unsettling ways.

Please Give moves along at a breezy pace and benefits greatly from uniformly excellent acting. The real scene stealer in this film is Ann Morgan Guilbert, who is hilarious as the taciturn, acerbic grandmother. Rebecca Hall and Amanda Peet are polar opposites as the two sisters. Mary despises her grandmother, but she shares the elderly woman's penchant for saying exactly what is on her mind, the feelings of others be damned. Rebecca, on the other hand, is sweet, shy, and self-effacing. Catherine Keener and Oliver Platt are perfectly cast as the neighbors, and Sarah Steele is charming as the teen whose major concerns in life are improving her complexion and buying a pair of designer jeans.

At the conclusion of Please Give there are no shattering revelations or tidy resolutions. That is as it should be, because real life rarely lends itself to clear-cut resolutions. Problems are worked upon, but not necessarily solved. Conflicts are dealt with, but not necessarily put to rest. Betrayal occurs, but the consequences sometimes remain ambiguous. Anyone who has ever had to care for an elderly relative or has experienced sibling rivalry will find it easy to empathize with and relate to the characters in Please Give.

The Video

The 2.35:1 1080p Blu-ray transfer by Sony is nothing to write home about, but it probably is as good as it can be. The film was shot in 16 mm, so the fine detail we normally expect to see on a Blu-ray is absent here. This is not to say that the transfer is poor, only that it is limited by the source material. However, this is a film which mostly takes place indoors. There are a few exterior shots of New York City streets and one trip to upstate New York to view fall foliage, but otherwise there is nothing here which would blow the viewer away in any event. Even so, Please Give probably looks at least as good on Blu-ray as it did in theaters. In fact, the opening sequence of the film is one which you might prefer not to see in greater detail.

The Audio

The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is solid if unspectacular. This is a dialogue-driven film, and the surround channels have little to do except in the occasional scenes which take place on New York City streets. Dialogue is mostly confined to the center channel, although the front channels provide some accurate directionality for voices and sounds which are off-screen. Please Give also has a pleasant and effective musical soundtrack by Marcelo Zarvos, and it is given a pleasing and expansive soundstage.

The Supplements

There are just a few extras on this Blu-ray disc.

"Behind the Scenes of Please Give" is a 12-minute "making of" featurette. It gives writer-director Nicole Holofcener the opportunity to expound upon the themes of her films, the casting of this film, and how she interacts with the actors and crew. The principal actors also appear and give their respective takes on the characters they play. The featurette is shown in 1.85:1 1080p.

Four minutes of standard definition outtakes include the usual flubbed lines, etc., but the final one involving Ann Morgan Guilbert is hilarious.

Also included are clips from four Q&A sessions with the director which were produced for FilmIndependent.org's "Preview Screening" series.

Finally, Sony has included the original theatrical trailer for Please Give, as well as trailers for Mother and Child, Micmacs, Get Low, Animal Kingdom, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, Eat Pray Love, and the Starz mini-series The Pillars of the Earth.

There also are some BD-Live features which were enabled on the release date but which I have not had an opportunity to review.

The Packaging

The single disc comes in a standard Blu-ray keep case.

The Final Analysis

Please Give is a pleasant surprise. It is a slight film, with a modest plot and few moments of either high drama or great hilarity. Nevertheless, it is so honest and true that it hits a nerve and stays with the viewer long after the final credits have rolled.

The film also deserves a special shout-out for its use of the song "No Shoes" by The Roches, which plays over the opening credits. After the film ends, you may find yourself wanting to go back and listen to the song again.

Equipment used for this review:

Panasonic DMP-BD50 Blu-ray player
Panasonic Viera TC-P46G15 Plasma display, calibrated to THX specifications by Gregg Loewen
Yamaha HTR-5890 THX Surround Receiver
BIC Acoustech speakers
Interconnects: Monster Cable

Release Date: Available Now (released October 19, 2010)


Rich Gallagher





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