Versatile Catherine Keener stars with Oliver Platt in "Please Give." (Sony Pictures Classics)
There's a certain amount of guilt in "Please Give," as well as a certain amount of joy. And a certain amount of guilt about the joy. And so it goes.
Feeling so ashamed she approaches homeless people on the street to hand them money, even though some of them turn out not to be homeless, is Kate (Catherine Keener). Part of her guilt comes from the fact that she buys vintage furniture from the survivors of dead people and then sells said furniture at a huge profit at her New York City store.
More of the guilt comes from having already purchased the apartment of the old lady, Andra (Ann Guilbert), living next door to her. Kate and her husband Alex (Oliver Platt) are essentially just waiting for the bitter old woman to die.
They're not alone. Andra's granddaughters, sweet Rebecca (Rebecca Hall) and icy Mary (Amanda Peet), are watching the clock, as well. This forms an odd bond of sorts between the two families as they wait for the miserable Andra to expire.
It's hard to know if writer-director Nicole Holofcener ("Friends with Money," "Lovely and Amazing") is intent on saying anything in particular here, but what she does say she says well, drifting with Woody Allen lightness through issues of fidelity, mortality, basic morality and life unappreciated.
She doesn't dwell too heavily but pauses to good effect while keeping the pace entertaining and the characters interesting.
The ever-versatile Keener has been central in all Holofcener's features, but the chameleon Hall stands out here, playing sweetly drab in contrast to recent sexy turns in "Vicki Cristina Barcelona" and "Red Riding."
Here she fades perfectly into the ensemble, which as a whole fades into the talky, funny, neurotic, oddly endearing whole of the film. Happily, the joy outweighs the guilt.