Kate (Catherine Keener) runs a trendy Manhattan vintage furniture store, selling pieces she picks up cheaply at sales from deceased estates. But Kate carries the burden of guilt as she marks up the carefully selected pieces and makes good profits, while the homeless stand outside her door. Instead of allowing teenage daughter Abby (Sarah Steele) to enjoy the spoils of her labour, she is keen to deny Abby material things, causing friction at home. Working with husband Alex (Oliver Platt) has its own pressures too, as well as those with their elderly neighbour Andra (Ann Morgan Guilbert), whose granddaughters Rebecca (Rebecca Hall) and Mary (Amanda Peet) are like chalk and cheese. How can Kate continue to live well but be a good person at the same time?
Review by Louise Keller:
Guilt, insecurity and compassion are the themes of this New York story about mothers and daughters and motherless daughters. In line with her earlier films (Lovely and Amazing, Friends With Money) in which she champions observation and relationships between characters, filmmaker Nicole Holofcener takes us into the lives of five women and explores their realities and demons. It's involving and often gripping with wonderful performances by a top cast, although the sum of its parts is less than the story as a whole.
Catherine Keener, who appears in all Holofcener's films, ably and charismatically plays the complex, successful New York business woman Kate, whose life we spy through an enticing keyhole. But first, there's the attention grabbing opening sequence, in which naked breasts of all shapes, sizes and ages are plonked onto a mammogram platform for examination in the radiographer's rooms. To Rebecca (Rebecca Hall, excellent), who works there, breasts are simply 'tubes of potential danger'. Compassion is part of Rebecca's natural make-up; she lovingly and patiently takes care of her 91 year old bad tempered, acidic grandmother Andra (Ann Morgan Guilbert), who happens to be Kate's next door neighbour. Amanda Peet has the film's most interesting role as Rebecca's outspoken, over-tanned, bitchy sister Mary, who articulates what a considerate person might consider to be in bad taste. She says exactly what is in her mind - even if it shocks. That first dinner at which Kate's pimply teenage daughter Abby (Sarah Steele) dons a pair of undies over her head to hide her zits is one we are not likely to forget.
Everyone has a problem beginning with Kate, who feels so guilty from her privileged position that she is constantly pulling out 20 dollar notes to hand out to homeless people, even mistaking a black man queuing for a restaurant as being needy. Old furniture has ghosts, she believes as she becomes haunted and taunted by her own success. Daughter Abby who is taunted by body image issues, is in a no-win battle against her mother, when it comes to buying a $200 pair of jeans; her mother is a compulsive do-gooder, trying to counter her guilt. Oliver Platt is solid as Kate's straying husband who doesn't really know why he is choosing this path.
Holofcener has created interesting characters and situations, yet as they are fleshed out and the plot develops, we are not overly satisfied by the resolution. For all its strengths, there are aspects of this story about renewal and acceptance that feel a little overworked.
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CAST: Catherine Keener, Amanda Peet, Rebecca Hall, Oliver Platt, Elise Ivy, Josh Pais, Sarah Steele, Ann Guilbert,
PRODUCER: Anthony Bregman
DIRECTOR: Nicole Holofcener
SCRIPT: Nicole Holofcener
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Yaron Orbach
EDITOR: Robert Frazen
MUSIC: Marcelo Zarvos
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Mark White
RUNNING TIME: 91 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: September 9, 2010
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