Please Give
 
“Please Give” is a quirky little story (written and directed by Nicole Holofcener) about a couple of families living in apartments next to each other, somewhere in New York City .
In one apartment, a crusty old Grandma (Ann Morgan Guilbert, would you believe best known in “The Dick Van Dyke Show”?) looks at the world unhappily, and at everyone in it suspiciously.  She has two grown granddaughters, sisters, Mary (Amanda Peet) and Rebecca (Rebecca Hall), both single, who both visit her regularly.  Mary, a self-absorbed cynic who does facials for a living, is as sour as she is, so, naturally, they don’t get along.  Rebecca is just good-hearted.  She works as a mammogram technician (only Nicole Holofcener herself could get away with starting this movie by showing us a series of very clinical, anatomical close-up shots of breasts in the vise of a mammogram).  She buys the groceries for Grandma (walking the longer way to the other store, because Grandma prefers it, and using the coupons, because Grandma demands it). Rebecca meets a young man through one of her patients, and though he’s shorter in stature, he’s just the kind of nice guy that she feels comfortable with.  We have hopes for her.  But as for the rest, not so much.
Next door, the husband Alex (Oliver Platt) and the wife Kate (Catherine Keener) have a very insecure 15-year-old daughter with an acne problem.  They also have an furniture/antique business, where their main source of supply comes from the grieving relatives of people who have just died.  (“Oh, Grandpa’s stuff was mostly old junk, anyway.  How much to just take it all off our hands?”)  Kate, feeling guilty about making her living through technically legal but morally repugnant fleecing, distances herself from Alex, who in turn takes a liking to Mary.  Kate also tries to assuage her guilt, by giving money away to every street beggar she sees, but runs into resistance from her daughter, who would prefer that money be given to her for clothes.
What we have here is a character study.  In some ways, it’s unsatisfying because nobody is very happy.  Even what sexual grappling there is seems almost desultory, as if it ceased being fun a long time ago.  Mary finds herself stalking the girlfriend of her ex, wondering what she has that she herself apparently didn’t (other than a strong back).  The attempt at a neighborly social ends in mutual exchange of insults, and a complete relational disaster.  It’s as if nobody can be happy just being happy.
Hmm, let’s see, depression, disloyalty, isolation, guilt, grief, and manipulation.  Doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, does it?  And yet, there are some “chuckle” moments, but more importantly, there is some truth here, in the classic prophetic sense:  “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” (Mark 4:9)
 
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Pastor, Grace Presbyterian Church, Greenville , Texas