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Originally published June 17, 2010 at 3:02 PM | Page modified June 17, 2010 at 4:16 PM

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Movie review

'Please Give': You'll be thankful for the gift of this modest movie

A review of "Please Give," a modest but immensely pleasurable movie about real people, starring Catherine Keener, Amanda Peet and Oliver Platt.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie review 4 stars

'Please Give,' with Catherine Keener, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt, Rebecca Hall, Ann Guilbert, Lois Smith, Sarah Steele, Thomas Ian Nicholas. Written and directed by Nicole Holofcener. 90 minutes. Rated R for language, some sexual content and nudity. Guild 45th, Uptown, Grand Cinema.

How, precisely, to describe the immense appeal of a film that begins with a jaunty mammogram montage and ends with the purchase of a pair of much-too-expensive jeans? Nicole Holofcener's lovely "Please Give" is a small, modest movie, full of the sort of characters we might know, or be.

Kate (Catherine Keener) and Alex (Oliver Platt) are a midlife New York couple with a teenage daughter, Abby (Sarah Steele), and an upscale used-furniture store. Kate worries about whether she's a good person (they're awaiting the death of an elderly neighbor, whose apartment they have bought); he's casually slipping into an affair.

Rebecca (Rebecca Hall) is the neighbor's granddaughter, a kind, hesitant young woman who seems perpetually on the verge of fading away. Her more showy sister Mary (Amanda Peet) is less kind and never hesitant.

For 90 minutes, we watch these families interact and become utterly real. Holofcener ("Lovely & Amazing," "Walking and Talking") has a knack for creating characters who don't seem like they're in a movie. (Think about the last movies you saw at the multiplex and consider what a gift this is.) Watch how Kate has a way of blurting out things that shouldn't be said, then becoming instantly remorseful — her face seemingly deflates, as if pricked by a pin — or how Abby worshipfully gazes at Mary, who's casually applying lip gloss at the dinner table, like she's a teen magazine come to life. Nothing here feels like a performance; rather, like we're hanging out with these people for a while, getting to know their flaws and their strengths.

Little of great importance seems to happen in "Please Give." Yet the movie has much to say about families — particularly mothers, daughters and sisters. In its fleeting moments of magic — Rebecca, knees bending to adjust for their height difference, kisses a nice young man on a sparkling fall afternoon; Kate gazes affectionately as an unaware Abby examines makeup at the drugstore; Mary leans a head against Rebecca's shoulder, as if the two are alone in the world; Kate and Alex beam at a suddenly joyous, glowing Abby, as if beginning to say goodbye as a little girl slips away — we see a nuanced, delicate picture of love.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or mmacdonald@seattletimes.com

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