Director tackles middle age in 'Please Give'

Director Nicole Holofcener’s oeuvre has reflected her life’s journey, as well as that of her audience: young adulthood, marriage, divorce and now, with “Please Give,” middle age and all that entails including figuring out your teenage kids, keeping a marriage going, and dealing with guilt and death.

“I didn’t really attempt to write about a topic or issue,” said the helmer of the Sony Pictures Classics film, playing at Berlin. “It seemed like a good opportunity to write about the stuff that consumes me — death and living your life in a meaningful way when you know you’re going to croak in that chair you just bought.”

While these may seem to be gender-free issues, Holofcener’s films tend to be pegged “women’s movies.” Even the Variety review of “Please Give” characterized it that way.

This piques the filmmaker, who notes that most films directed by men are not pigeonholed as “men’s films,” thereby eliminating a potential audience of women.

“I don’t think about if (the characters are) likable or not, they’re nuanced people with flaws,” said Holofcener. “Those characters’ flaws determine the plot instead of the other way around. Those are the things that I get excited about.”

Despite the greater number of films directed by women in 2009, femme helmers still have a hard time getting their movies made at the studios, a situation Holofcener has come up against time and again. Sony Classics’ Michael Barker, though, doesn’t see gender when he watches a film. “We’ve always gravitated towards women directors,” citing the shingle’s roster in 2009, which included Lone Scherfig’s “An Education” and Anne Fontaine’s “Coco Before Chanel.”

He says “Please Give” is “not a gender thing — a lot of men identify with the characters. I identify with the characters. It’s an embodiment of Holofcener’s view of the world — it’s a great auteur film, very complex, with a lot of humanity,”

“Please Give,” which unspools Feb. 16 out-of-competition at Berlin, stars Catherine Keener, Oliver Platt, Sarah Steele, Rebecca Hall and Amanda Peete.

“I look for actors that are very natural and have very few mannerisms that I’ve seen over the years,” says the director, who’s used Keener as muse and celluloid “stand in” for years. “It’s an intuitive thing — who seems right for the part.”

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