Writer/Director Nicole Holofcener and Catherine Keener reunited this week at the Tribeca Film Festival screening of their film, “Please Give” in New York City. The two have worked together for Holofcener’s last four films (“Walking and Talking”, “Lovely and Amazing”, “Friends with Money”) and now “Please Give” which opens this Friday April 30th. Also in attendance were actors Mark Ruffalo, Ron Livingston and Josh Hamilton. You can read my entire review of “Please Give” here.
Earlier this week I had a chance to sit down with Nicole Holofcener and two of the actors in the film, Rebecca Hall and Oliver Platt. Holofcener shared that she’s definitely had some issues about how to be a good person and how to give her time to charities, while giving properly.
“I’ve had a lot of miserable and funny experiences volunteering, I have limitations.” “One time I went to sing Christmas carols to mentally ill patients in a hospital, which really isn’t a good idea, it was heart breaking. I ended up crying in the stairwell.”
This real life experience ended up in the film with Catherine Keener’s character Kate. Kate struggles with the notions of running a successful and profitable Mid-Century Modern furniture store with her husband (Oliver Platt), along with raising a teenage daughter who desires $250 blue jeans. She feels incredible guilt on a daily basis offering money to the homeless she passes by on the street and playing with the notion of volunteering at a mentally challenged basketball league.
“Its the kind of movie I want to see, I think it’s a funny, sad, and an intelligent movie that moves me and moves people…it’s a very human tale,” said Holofcener referring to whether her film will play well to broad audiences or not.
What is it about Catherine Keener that you gravitate to and why do you cast her in all your movies?
“I never expected to put her in all my movies. It comes each time – should I or shouldn’t I, is this part right for her, will she be available, will people be sick of us together, is that a bad thing to attach ourselves like that… But, each time she seems like the best person for the part. She’s such a good actor and I obviously see a great deal of myself in her and vice versa. Her sense of humor really goes a long way even when she’s playing a very dramatic part or in “Lovely and Amazing” an unlikeable character. Having a sense of humor in an actor is so important even if you’re playing drama. It just adds a certain level of wit and lightness so it’s not melodramatic. I just think she’s great!”
What comes first, the plot or your characters?
“I don’t have a plot, plotted out so it’s a combination of the characters and where they take me. Sometimes they take me to an interesting place and I keep it and sometimes they take me to somewhere boring and horrible and it takes me 30 pages to realize this isn’t going anywhere. But, it’s more fun to write that way, I find and it’s been working so far.”
How hard was it to find financing for this film?
“It wasn’t easy and originally Sony did not want to do it. My scripts don’t really convey what I see in my head as well as I would like. They (Sony) read it and said this is so depressing, people are going to want to kill themselves after seeing this movie, where is the levity? So I went through the script with them and said, ‘this is going to be funny and that is going to be funny’ and they said okay.”
Who is the teenage daughter Abby (Sarah Steele) patterned after?
“She’s based on me when I was a teenager. I had really bad skin and how people responded to me. Saying, ‘No, you look great it’s fine, it’s not there’. I so badly wanted people to say, no your covered in zits and I feel bad for you and that feeling of being unseen.”
Do you always see yourself as a writer/director and do you think with Catherine Bigelow breaking the glass ceiling, for female writer/directors, there will be a change in the industry for women?
It’s probably not going to change much at all. It was an anomaly and it’s terrific but, it’s a prize. We should be working anyway and telling our stories not just winning prizes. With my own material as a writer/director I wouldn’t pass it off to anyone else but, I would be happy to direct someone else’s script if I fell in love with it. I write scripts for a living or re-write them but, this (writing/directing) is what I love to do and this is what I hope to continue to do.”
Oliver Platt who plays the husband to Catherine Keener’s character talked about working on “Please Give” and Holofcener.
“What’s so brilliant about Nicole’s writing is what she doesn’t write. The spaces between the silences.” “As human beings we talk around things and she captures that instead of talking at the audience.”
“This is my favorite kind of comedy, there’s no jokes…these moments that are built. There are all these moments that are uncomfortable and squeamish.”
How was it being one of the only men in the film surrounded by women?
“It wasn’t like they were all fighting over me but, I did feel a certain responsibility as the ‘man’. Nicole and I worked together a little on the character and she invited me into this process. It was the one character that she wasn’t 1000 percent sure about so she asked me as a man, what do you think? I was the ‘Male consultant; I was the technical adviser.”
Did you talk a lot with Catherine Keener and your relationship in the movie with her?
“I’ve always admired Catherine. We were very lucky that we liked each other. I think that we were able to fairly quickly establish a sense of familiarity with each other. It was all there on the page!” “I’m shooting another movie with Catherine Keener called “The Oranges which is a dark comedy”.
Rebecca Hall who plays, Rebecca in the film is the sister of Amanda Peet’s character and the ‘good’ granddaughter who looks after their elderly relative.
“The character that I play – her journey seems different from all of the others because she’s essentially the one that is the most morally responsible. I actually think ultimately that all of the journeys are kinda identical. Everyone in the film is giving in the wrong direction and giving for the wrong reasons to satisfy something for themselves or giving because it’s a way of taking advantage on some perverse level. Rebecca is giving to everyone else, in a sense selfishly as an avoidance factor. She harbors way to much guilt to allow herself to be happy.”
In the film Rebecca is fixed up with Eugene (Thomas Ian Nicholas), the Grandson of one of her patients she administers a mammogram to. She is resistant at first but, decides to go on a double date with Eugene and their respective Grandmothers. The scene is hilarious, not necessarily for its jokes but, for the awkwardness of the situation as they drive upstate to look at the changing color of the leaves. Eugene is quite shorter than Rebecca which only adds to the awkwardness and humor.
As a single woman, would you date someone that is shorter than you?
“I’m extremely tall, you know how that narrows my options if I decide I’m only going to date tall? If I want to put on heels I’m like 6’3 so that narrows my options to guys that are 6’5. I’m mean, C’mon, I have to get over it!”
“Please Give” opens in theaters this Friday April 30th in New York and Los Angeles with other cities to follow.