Star rating – 7/10
This new offering from Nicole Holofcener centres around the guilt of New York liberals at being so comfortable, and their resulting need to ‘do good’. Catherine Keener plays Kate, who runs a successful vintage furniture store with her husband Alex. Most of their stock comes from buying up the contents of the homes of people who have died, mostly helping out families who want to get rid of the remnants of their loved ones with some haste.
Another such arrangement that Kate and Alex have come to is to buy the apartment next door to their own, and allow the elderly and somewhat cantankerous inhabitant, Andra, to live their until she dies, at which time the couple will knock through to create a fabulous master bedroom and a laundry room, something of a luxury in New York. This brings them into contact with Andra’s grand daughters, who come to make sure she is ok and to walk her dog for her. Rebecca Hall gives a great performance as the younger of the two, Rebecca, who takes her grand daughterly duties very seriously, and puts her own happiness on hold somewhat in the process. Her elder sister Mary is not so self sacrificing, preferring instead to make sure that her tan is regularly topped up, to entertaining Andra, who she honestly says is just not very nice.
Kate is racked with guilt at her good fortune in life, and cannot pass by a homeless person without giving them a $20 bill and a few kind words. This is ironic as her own life is not so perfect at it might seem, as husband Alex embarks on an affair with the sexy and, of course, beautifully tanned Mary; and teenage daughter Abby goes through the usual but horrendous hormonal moods swings and skin breakouts that accompany that age.
The film is pleasant enough. There are a few funny and touching moments, such as when Rebecca and Abby are walking their dogs one evening and musing on the uncoolness of carrying around dog poo. But it left me wondering what the message really was. Kate so wants to be charitable, but just ends up crying and being negative when faced with anyone with a disability or other circumstances that induce her pity. Rebecca is the most attractive of the characters, who finally sees what all the fuss is about when the leaves change colour with her new boyfriend. A pleasant enough film but I couldn’t help concluding that if there was less liberal angst and more appreciation of what they had in the first place, then all involved would be much happier without a whole lot of effort.