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Please Give

Director: Nicole Holofcener
Cast: Catherine Keener, Oliver Platt, Ann Guilbert, Amanda Peet, Rebecca Hall, Sarah Steele
Review [30.Apr.2010]

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Please Give


There are precious few film directors working right now that consistently capture such a diverse array of femininity as Nicole Holofcener—the director of such films as Walking and Talking (1996), Lovely and Amazing (2002), and Friends with Money (2006). Alejandro González Iñárritu comes to mind, as does Woody Allen, but to be more concise, there are no female film directors making movies about women with the scope that Holofcener favors once again on the low-key, yet completely enthralling Please Give. The film is an ode to ignorant goodwill, cheating, greed, cynicism, and purity that is equally hilarious, sharp, awkward, and heart-breaking. Written with gusto, Holofcener’s female characters—played by Ann Morgan Guilbert, Rebecca Hall, Catherine Keener, Amanda Peet, Lois Smith, and Sarah Steele—again encompass many ages, shapes, and philosophies and the clashing of these strong, individual women as they cross paths provides for a fascinating viewing experience full of brains, guts, and wit. This is Holofcener’s best film to date, and she just keeps on getting better at portraying an intriguing range of unique women’s experiences for the screen. Matt Mazur


 

 



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Easy A

Director: Will Gluck
Cast: Emma Stone, Penn Badgley, Amanda Bynes, Thomas Haden Church, Patricia Clarkson, Cam Gigandet, Lisa Kudrow

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Easy A


How refreshing it is to see a smart, teenaged, female film protagonist talk like a smart, teenaged female. Easy A‘s Olive, portrayed lovingly by Emma Stone, doesn’t use texting terms or slang when she’s speaking. She isn’t dim, ditzy, or klutzy—nor is she uptight or anal-retentive. She grapples with real issues of sexuality and social perception. And, though the process is full of awkwardness and poor decision-making, she’s all the more likable for the smart way she goes about attacking these issues. (If only her male counterparts were as well-drawn and sharp, but we can’t have everything.) We’d say that filmmakers should take note of films like Easy A and Mean Girls and create more female-centered teen comedies with characters as smart and fully realized as the ones in those films—but, really, all romantic comedies would do well to follow Easy A‘s lead. Marisa LaScala


 

 



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I Love You Phillip Morris

Director: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
Cast: Jim Carrey, Ewan McGregor, Leslie Mann, Rodrigo Santoro

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I Love You Phillip Morris


I Love You, Phillip Morris is another one of those strange-but-true tales: Con man Steven Russell (Jim Carrey), a happily married family man, is hit with a car, decides to come out as gay man, turns to conning people to afford his lifestyle, gets caught and sent to prison, falls in love with another prisoner (Phillip Morris, played by Ewan McGregor), and spends the rest of his life in prison, breaking out of prison, and breaking Morris out of prison so the two can be together. (Phew!) While the facts of the story speak for themselves, the tricky part is the tone needed to balance out all of the narrative’s wackiness—and directors Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, together with Carrey, succeed in finding the perfect one. It acknowledges Russell’s strangeness without delighting in his misdeeds. It recognizes the humor inherent in Morris’ cons, but still manages to wring out lots of deep emotion when it is called for. When the film ends, you admire Russell—but you also kind of want to hit him in the face if you ever get a chance. Marisa LaScala


 

 



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Cyrus

Director: Jay Duplass, Mark Duplass
Cast: John C. Reilly, Jonah Hill, Marisa Tomei, Catherine Keener, Matt Walsh

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Cyrus


The most consistently hilarious film yet from Mark and Jay Duplass (The Puffy Chair, Baghead) often had laughs so loud at the film festival screening where I caught it that dialogue was missed. Jonah Hill plays Cyrus, the adult son of Molly (Marisa Tomei) who slowly drives a wedge into her burgeoning relationship with John (John C. Reilly). The audience is kept guessing for most of the film on what exactly is going on with Cyrus: whether he’s mentally challenged, a psychopath with a Norman Bates streak or just a normal if slightly insecure guy. I’m glad to see the Duplass brothers get to work with this kind of a budget, with a studio and a real distribution deal, coming out with a product that has a slightly slicker look so that people other than shabby ‘mumblecore’ fans like myself can finally see and appreciate their brilliance as well. Jenn Misko


 

 



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Let Me In

Director: Matt Reeves
Cast: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Chloë Grace Moretz, Elias Koteas, Richard Jenkins

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Let Me In


Let Me In had an uphill climb ahead of it from its very inception. It’s a remake of a Swedish film that was hugely popular with film geeks, so the internet was against it. Director Matt Reeves’ previous film was Cloverfield, a movie so stylized and alternately loved and hated that it was impossible to get a read on his directing ability. But the casting of Chloe Moretz (Kick-Ass) and Kodi Smit-McPhee (The Road) as the two pre-teen leads in the movie was a positive sign. In the end, general audiences rejected the movie, but most of those who took the time to watch it loved it. Smit-McPhee and Moretz are indeed excellent as the shy, abused kid and the young-looking vampire who moves in next door. If the original Let the Right One In had a problem, it was its languid pacing. Let Me In tightens the pacing without losing the slow, chilly atmosphere that made the original such a departure from most modern horror. This is the sort of horror movie that has more on its mind than just scaring you, and its compelling story and strong performances makes it worth watching, even for hardcore fans of the original. Chris Conaton


 
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