The opening shots of Please Give, the new film by the brilliant Nicole Holofcener, are of breasts. Now before all my straight male friends—who absolutely love boobies (you know who you are) but also have unreal expectations of women because they were raised on Maxim—go running to the theater, it is my duty to inform you that these are not perky, perfect, Hollywood breasts, but real-world tits of all shapes and sizes and ages. The movie immediately lays bare the unglamourousness of everyday bodies and everyday people, stripping away fairytale surfaces to get at the depth of who we are, what we're afraid of, and the kind of people we long to be. That doesn't sound like a boob fest, does it? It's not.
Please Give is a painfully funny, highly perceptive meditation on youth and beauty, aging and dying, philanthropy and commerce, and the human business of how we assess and assign value to things, other people, and ourselves.
In a mere four films over the course of 14 years (what the hell does Nicole Holofcener do in between gigs?!), Holofcener has emerged as one of my favorite filmmakers—a sort of female Woody Allen, one with her finger on the pulse of contemporary life. Walking and Talking, Lovely and Amazing, and my favorite, Friends With Money, explore female relationships in ways far too smart and perceptive for mainstream Hollywood.
Please Give—which features a family of antique dealers at a familial crossroads and a trio of dysfunctional neighbor women who become enmeshed in each other's lives—expands Holofcener's palette of themes, considering questions of death and legacy as a cold matter of fact. Thank the stars that the movie has a heart as big as its brain—and a pitch-perfect cast to die for.