The line between criticized and celebrated narcissism blurs a bit in Please Give, Lovely & Amazing director Holofcener’s latest exploration of the charms of the bourgeoisie. Keener and Platt play an antique-dealer couple who acquire their wares from recently deceased Manhattanites, a vocation that gives Keener’s character an overwhelming guilt complex. (She has a habit of giving handouts to every homeless person she sees—and, by mistake, some non-homeless.) The two have their eyes on a neighboring apartment whose nonagenarian occupant will die soon, allowing them to expand. Hurling insults with every breath, the nonagenarian may be the most honestly spiteful of the lot. Her grandkids—conceited facialist Peet, passive mammographer Hall—disagree on their responsibilities toward her.
In attempting to redeem her creations while also dissecting a particular brand of white upper-class anxiety, Holofcener faces a tricky balancing act. (At least Greenberg doesn’t apologize for its protagonist’s flaws.) For all of Please Give’s surprises—the adultery subplot doesn’t play out as expected—the movie seems more interested in putting its characters on the therapist’s couch than under the scalpel, and without the Allenesque humor that might have made that kind of self-satisfaction easier to ignore. Stop helping people and buy your daughter a new pair of jeans—you’ll feel much better. Keep being nice to others—you’ll meet the Prince Charming you deserve. The characters in Please Give feel organic. It’s a pity the lessons don’t.