Nicole Holofcener talks about “Please Give”

Friday, April 30, 2010
By Abbey Khan


I spoke to writer/director Nicole Holofcener about her comedy Please Give, where Kate (Catherine Keener), her husband Alex (Oliver Platt), and their 15-year-old daughter Abby (Sarah Steele), wait for their grumpy old neighbor Andra (Ann Guilbert) to die so they can expand their two bedroom Manhattan apartment. Andra’s sweet granddaughter Rebecca (Rebecca Hall) and her bitchy older sister Mary (Amanda Peet) check in on her daily, and even though they find her to be difficult, they feel somewhat at odds with Kate and Alex for purchasing Andra’s apartment for their own selfish use. At the same time, Kate tries to deal with her guilt of having money, giving it away to the homeless, and spending it on her daughter to buy overpriced jeans.

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Watch the scene now!

FUSN: What I found interesting is that Rebecca’s grandmother died from old age while her mother committed suicide, neither of which have anything to do with breast related diseases, so how did you decide on her career as a radiology technician?
NH: It wasn’t as planned as you may have guessed. I was just inspired by the woman who gives me mammograms. She’s a total character and she talked to me about movies incessantly. She didn’t know that I made movies. I thought God, she has such a lonely life, all she does is watch movies, I want to write a movie about this lady and that’s how it started. I wrote the scene with the boobs and started with the Rebecca character and then it evolved from there.

FUSN: So which character was she in the movie?
NH: Well, she actually didn’t end up being represented in the film. The Rebecca character was inspired by her.

FUSN: Why did you set this film in New York rather than Los Angeles, your home state, when L.A. has the same problems with homelessness, spoiled kids, and gluttony, all of which you talk about in the film?
NH: The apartment situation is so quintessentially New York. Buying an apartment from someone who’s still living there and waiting for them to die is incredibly common. The real estate desperation in New York is unique to that city I think. And then I had other elements. Once that was happening, the whole driving upstate to see the leaves is very East Coast, and so I couldn’t avoid going there to shoot it. It just had to be there for those reasons.

You’re friends with Catherine Keener, who was also in your other film, Friends With Money, did you have her in mind when writing this script?
NH: I did. It’s hard to avoid having her in my mind when I find her so terrific and she plays a character based on me pretty well. And I knew she would really get it and have the range of emotions that character needed to express.

FUSN: What other projects are you working on?
NH: I adapted a book called Every Secret Thing that Frances McDormand would produce. She gave me the book. It’s a thriller. It’s completely different from anything I’ve ever done and we don’t have financing yet but I hope we will get it.

Recommendation: B-
British actress Rebecca Hall may have played a glamorous socialite in Ron Howard’s Frost/Nixon, but I found her to be more convincing as the sweet, innocent, homely granddaughter in Please Give. You feel for her even more when you think about the only family she has in her life, her blunt and bitchy sister, which Amanda Peet portrays perfectly, and the grumpy and unfiltered grandmother, who can either be comedic or embarrassing depending on the situation. Please Give delivers some laughs, mostly due to Ann Guilbert’s nothing goes unsaid character, because let’s face it, we have all come in contact with at least one crabby elderly person like her.

Please Give is a Sony Pictures Classics film and opens in select movie theaters on April 30, 2010.

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