Please Give: Interview with Writer/Director Nicole Holofcener

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Nicole Holofcener is the writer/director of "Please Give," which stars Catherine Keener, Amanda Peet, Rebecca Hall, and Oliver Platt. The film is being released on April 30 by Sony Pictures Classics.  Holofcener is known for films such as Lovely & Amazing (2001) and Friends with Money (2006). 

An Oscar-nominated Alter-Ego

 

Catherine Keener has been Holofcener’s frequent choice of alter-ego in her films. In PLEASE GIVE, Holofcener says, “Catherine’s character is in the midst of figuring out what gives her life meaning and what makes her feel good about herself and bad about herself. Catherine can relate to my own contradictions. Our collaboration has grown; I’m spoiled, because it’s so easy to direct her—it’s so easy for her to direct me!” 

 

On the rest of her cast

 

Says Holofcener of her leading man Oliver Platt, “He’s funny and attractive in an unconventional way. It’s one of those intuitive things. He just felt right. He has this hysterical low-ball humor but he also can be dramatic, and he’s really likeable. That’s important, because he does this skunky thing.” 

 

About Rebecca Hall, Holofcener says, “Rebecca has that sweet, open, vulnerable, natural beauty that I think could be overlooked by someone…stupid. Or really not looking carefully.” Rebecca plays the “plain” sister to Mary’s hottie. 

 

Natural beauty also drew Holofcener to Sarah Steele, who plays Abby, Kate and Alex’s fifteen-year-old daughter (Steele is actually a 21-year-old college student). “I auditioned a lot of teenage girls, but when Sarah walked in, that was it. She literally flushed during the audition, which I loved. She's very present, a great listener, a very honest actor. She had the right combination of sweet innocence and the ability to be a horrible teenager. And she's funny, so Abby never seemed too dark or miserable, even when she was. She also happens to have beautiful skin, so clearly she's a good sport. Most of the people on the crew thought the zits were real and felt so badly for her.” 

 

“I'm happy when the actors have suggestions,” says Holofcener, “Especially if they're good ones, which they often are. Low budget movies unfortunately don't leave enough time to rehearse a lot, but if the script is in good shape, I don't think a great deal of it is necessary.” 

 

A Native New Yorker

 

While Holofcener now mostly lives and works in California, she is a native New Yorker; that kinship with the city is vivid in PLEASE GIVE. “I know the neighborhoods. I feel like I know where the characters would grow up and what streets they would live on. It’s nice to feel so comfortable with a city.” Kate and Alex’s apartment in PLEASE GIVE is actually the apartment that inspired the story—Holofcener’s friend bought the apartment next door, occupied by an elderly woman, and became close to the neighbor. Holofcener used their shared hallway and an apartment in the same building as principal shooting locations. 

 

Despite the heat, “The people I work with are talented and they really get me and support me and know me very well,” says Holofcener. 

 

She hopes that viewers of PLEASE GIVE share that commonality. “I guess it’s more interesting to me if a person comes out of the movie feeling all the things that the movie has stirred up in them. Not to think: “Hey, y’know, I’m a bad person!” Or “Hey, that’s just like me” – it should be a more emotionally felt experience. If I had to sum it up into a sentence I probably couldn’t. Which is a good thing.”