Flicked Off: "Please Give," or, Pity Is Different Than Affection

THE KEENERJulie Klausner: I am under the impression that you loved the new Nicole Hosen-feffer Incorporated movie, “Please Give.”

Tyler Coates: I did! I also knew going into the movie that I would love it, as Nicole Holofcener is the BEST.

Julie: “Please Give” me your take on it, har har.

Tyler: (I see what you did there, right there.)


Julie: I, too, am a big fan of Mizz Hoffasenna. How did this one compare to her/their past movies for you? [Oh and there are spoilers ahead, for sure.]

Tyler: Well, I think it’s a littler heavier on the HEAVY STUFF.

Julie: You mean “death” and “dying.”

Tyler: Yes.

Julie: She’s dealt with money before. “Friends with Benefits I Mean Money” was a movie I liked,
if only for Frances McDormand’s angry character.

Tyler: “Friends with Benefits” is the porn-parody of “Friends with Money.”

Julie: What about this movie did you like?

Tyler: I related to the characters in an “I fear I might become that person some day!” kind of way.

Julie: Which person?

Tyler: For example, Amanda Peet’s character, who could be written off as a mega-bitch, but she’s also insecure and we see that. And the grandmother is also kind of awful to everyone. But I still have sympathy for them, and I think that’s what I like so much about the movie.

Julie: You like that it makes you able to care about awful people?

Tyler: Yes! I mean, it’s confusing and complicated, but it’s a lot more interesting than being like, “Oh, that bitch? What a mess. THE END.”

Julie: Do you think “confusing and complicated” is a nice way of saying that Nicole Hossafrassa doesn’t like casting people under 30 to play the leads in her movies?

Tyler: Hmm.

Julie: Because I think of her movies as being about grown-ups with grown-up problems . “Is it wrong to resell this antique furniture for too much more than my paying price?” “What if my liposuction goes wrong?” “My daughter has acne!” “My husband is distant.”

Tyler: Do you think those problems are superficial? Like “white people problems”?

Julie: I think the kind of guilt that comes along with privilege–whether it’s based on your FAMILY CONNECTIONS, ahem, or how good you look in a slim-cut Eileen Fisher pant— is a theme Nicole HowsAboutIt is verifiably obsessed with.

Tyler: She writes what she knows.

Julie: How do you think Nicole felt about Cathy Keener in this movie? Obvs Rebecca Hall was the prodigal child–looking all angelic in her scrubs and big teeth.

Tyler: I loved Rebecca Hall.

Julie: We were set up to fall in love.

Tyler: And it worked! So yeah–as for Keener, I thought Nicole liked her a lot. So did I! And I felt bad for her.

Julie: That’s different! Pity is different than affection. I thought Nicole was making fun of her, a little, about her habit of giving too much money to homeless people.

Tyler: Well, yes.

Julie: And Googling those kids with the messed up lip-teeth. Hare lips?

Tyler: Hair lips.

Julie: That’s Cindy McCain’s charity, btw– the one she stole pills from.

Tyler: Oh, maybe it is hare.

Julie: But, what’s the message we’re taking away from laughing at C-Keeney? “Don’t be a sad sack, dummy”? Don’t give twenties to homeless people”? “Make it so your husbo won’t cheat on you…?” I don’t know. I’m asking.

Tyler: I’m not sure what to take about her and Oliver Platt’s character’s marriage. Maybe that’s the one subplot I feel went unresolved.

Julie: It also seemed like the whole time that mean old lady was dying was a waiting period of some kind.

Tyler: Right.

Julie: As in, “After she dies, we’ll figure out our marriage, and I’ll stop looking for this existential something or other.”

Tyler: What I took from it, is that the lesson is: Chill out. Just chiiiill.

Julie: Hahaha

Tyler: Life is full of moral gray areas, and you should do what makes you happy as long as you’re not hurting other people. And also, you should help people out when you can, because it not only feels good but it’s also kind and efficient! But there’s no point stressing out about it, because that doesn’t help anything. Like when C-Keener goes to the retirement home or to volunteer with the kids with mental disabilities–she was so upset that it made other people upset.

Julie: Sure.

Tyler: So, it was selfish of her to hurt herself, trying to be a better person.

Julie: It’s Nicole H.L.C.N.R.’s take on martyrdom being lame.

Tyler: There’s a self-righteousness to martyrdom.

Julie: Yeah, but the suffering is hurtful. So, in this Holofcefferian rubric of morality, why (SPOILER!!) shouldn’t Oliver Platt cheat, if his wife wasn’t ever going to learn about his affair? And what was the deal with his Howard Stern fandom? I found that very bizarre. Because men like that character, who are well educated, live in Manhattan, and listen to Stern on satellite radio, will mention it by weaving Howard’s point of view into a conversation. They won’t crack themselves up with the word “penis hair.” That character had a moronic streak which I found off-base. I wonder if that reflected Nicole H.’s attitude toward men?

Tyler: Maybe she was making a statement about “lowbrow”? She opens the film with a montage of tits.

Julie: That was great. I loved that “O Brother, Where Art Thou” music over the mammogramania.

Tyler: “No Shoes” by the Roches!

Julie: Okay, Banjo Pete.

Tyler: I’m eclectic!

Julie: But I don’t think Platt’s Howard fandom was a statement about class as much as it was about gender. Because Oliver and Keeney were the same, class-wise–they both knew what a 1950’s chest of drawers was worth. I think the Stern stuff was Nicole’s “DUHHHH I’m a man” shtick.

Tyler: I didn’t see that at all!

Julie: Well, how DO you think she represents men? I should rephrase that. As a man, how do you feel she represents men? In this movie, I mean.

Tyler: That is a hard question, because I always relate to her female characters more. Like, I don’t particularly understand why Oliver Platt cheated on Catherine Keener with Amanda Peet instead of Rebecca Hall.

Julie: Amanda Peet was hot and angry and a little crazy. Guys like that type for affair material.

Tyler: Do straight guys like that? Hot, angry, and crazy?

Julie: Straight guys like hot and crazy, for a fling. Angry can go either way–it’s a subcategory of crazy.

Tyler: Also, Amanda Peet wasn’t going to make him read after they fucked.

Julie: You mean READ A SARAH VOWELL BOOK? Talk about product placement.

Tyler: OH YEAH ! SV had a cameo. That was weird.

Julie: AND her book was in it. Her book had a cameo. It was like Dr Pepper in “Iron Man 2.” In every way.

Tyler: Haha

Julie: So do you think Nicole is callous?

Tyler: I don’t think so.

Julie: Her characters totally are.

Tyler: No!

Julie: Yes! Peet is so mean to her grammy.

Tyler: The grandmother was awful.

Julie: Yeah, but she’s dying. be cool, Teddybear.

Tyler: Should we say that is because she is old, or because she is just not nice?

Julie: Because she is old, and being old sucks! And you should be nice to people who are weak and sad!

Tyler: Well, Catherine Keener was nice to her!

Julie: Because she wanted her apartment! The scene where Amanda Peet asks CKeener to tell them what how she planned to renovate her dying grandmother’s apartment in front of everybody, BTW, reminded me of the scene from “Lovely & Amazing” where Emily Mortimer makes her BF walk her through all the flaws on her body. Mean people doing mean things and calling them honest.

Tyler: Hmmm yeah. But what about the guilt Catherine Keener had for other people who couldn’t offer her anything?

Julie: Guilt is different than compassion. It’s like Catholic guilt, too–original sin, which just makes you feel awful and, as a bonus, brings down everybody else within ten feet of your philosophy– a la, nuns. So, if you’re right about Nicole’s message being “Chillax, y’all!” then true grace comes along with being comfortable with what you have, and comfortable with what you want–not to mention, guilt-free about your privilege. Like, in Nancy Meyers’ movies! Which probably represent Protestantism.

Tyler: I think the women in the audience behind me thought they were going to see a Nancy Meyers movie.

Julie: Oh, and I loved the little girl.

Tyler: Totally. And you know what? I was glad she got those jeans.

Julie: Yeah, but should that really be how the movie ends? In a dressing room? Oliver Platt isn’t going to cheat anymore, and that lady’s dead so Keener can get her dream kitchen (Nancy Meyers)?

Tyler: Well, we have no sense that any of those things are going to make them happier, sure. But yeah! Everyone is happy when they get what they want!

Julie: So, what does Oliver Platt get?

Tyler: Well, yeah, I have no idea what he gets, honestly. Maybe he finally gets to feel guilt?

Julie: Yes! A different kind of guilt –around doing it with a lady he’s not married to. Because he had no reservations about selling dead people’s furniture for a lot of money. What about Peet?

Tyler: Amanda Peet feels sad for the first time

Julie: Oh, no–that girl feels sad all the time. She’s the most unhappy of any of those people, INCLUDING the old woman.

Tyler: But she couldn’t admit it.

Julie: She admitted it to herself every day when she stalked her ex’s girlfriend at Poppy on Mott street. Which is, BTW, an overrated boutique where everything is blousy and unflattering. FYI.

Tyler: Okay well, maybe she was unhappy, but it seemed like she was hiding it from other people.

Julie: She’s just damaged. Like her carrot skin. If anything, that’s Nicole sneering at a ‘service’ class – Amanda Peet is the beautician who “helps people,” but not like Rebecca Hall’s technician, who actually screens women for cancer– a noble pursuit!

Tyler: She’s kind of that stereotypical young woman who lives in the city and is just generally an asshole – she cares about status and her looks more than anything else.

Julie: You think?

Tyler: Is there a word for women like this in New York? In Chicago we call them “Trixies.”

Julie: Please define a Trixie for me.

Tyler: They’re women in their mid- to late- 20’s who live in Lincoln Park, which is a “nice” neighborhood in the sense that people can barely afford to live there (you know, $1200 for one-bedroom apartments? LOL, New Yorkers!). They’re the gals who go to tanning salons and look for rich husbands so they can quit their professional careers and raise kids in the suburbs. Oh, and they all drive black Jettas. And they have that “sexy” raspy voice.

Julie: Very Five Towns.

Tyler: Nearly every woman I’ve met at a staffing agency could fit into this stereotype.

Julie: I think Peet-y was just treading water. And killing herself, in a way, like her & Rebecca Hall’s mom did. The thing about them having a mom who committed suicide is also an opportunity to have two different sisters who represent the two kinds of people I believe survive the tragedy of losing a mother at a young age. Which is to say there are some kinds of people that God only gives them what they can handle (Rebecca Hall), and then there are other kinds of people, who God just doesn’t like (Amanda Peet).

Tyler: Right.

Julie: She was just a bitter asshole who treated the world like it was its fault that her mother killed herself, and especially her grandmother. That poor fucking woman who had to lose a daughter to depression…

Tyler: …and then have a shitty granddaughter who blamed her for her mom’s death…

Julie: …and may or may not have poisoned her with pineapple juice! That was so upsetting. Don’t be cruel to old people, Amanda Peet!

Tyler: That is a good lesson.

Julie: She managed to be nice to Jack Nicholson in that Nancy Meyers movie! With her vagina!

Tyler: Did you love the jokes about going to see the leaves?

Julie: Yes, I did.

Tyler: Is that “so New York?”

Julie: Ha! I guess so. leaf-peeping, and contempt for it?

Tyler: I loved, though, that Rebecca Hall was actually moved by seeing the leaves.

Julie: Well she’s a Manic Trixie Dream Girl!

Tyler: Haha!

Julie: J/K, not really.

Tyler Coates has had it with those girls in Hyde Park and Julie Klausner is too polite to pimp her book, so we’ll do it for her. You can see her tonight at Housing Works! We’re not sure where Tyler will be though.