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by Peter Knegt
April 28, 2010 1:27 AM
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Big Screen | Holofcener and a "Human Centipede" Lead Debuts

Both among early-in-the-season picks on indieWIRE's summer movie preview, there might not be a more inappropriate double feature than Nicole Holofcener's "Please Give" and Tom Six's "The Human Centipede." One is a light-hearted morality tale about a bunch of inter-connected New Yorkers negotiating their lives. And the other, well, is about crazy ass German dude named Heiter who's not up for negotiating - and certainly feels no guilt - as he attempts to literally connect three very unlucky people via their gastric system. But together these two films mark your best bets for indie filmgoing this weekend - at least according to criticWIRE.

The film one may have assumed is not the one involving the gastric system is writer-director Holofcener's fourth feature film (and her first set in New York since 1996's "Walking and Talking"), "Please Give." A premiere earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival, the film details an array of Holofcener-esque characters and situations: Kate (Catherine Keener, who has starred in every one of Holofcener's films) and Alex (Oliver Platt), a married couple who run a business reselling estate-sale furniture, and live with their teenage daughter, Abby (Sarah Steele). They buy the unit next door, planning to knock the walls out. But first they have to wait for the occupant, Andra (Ann Morgan Guilbert), a cranky elderly woman, to die. The wait becomes a bit messy when the family develops relationships with Andra’s two grown granddaughters (Amanda Peet and Rebecca Hall).

Critics have been quite giving to "Please Give." The film has averaged a strong "B+" score on its iW film page, including an "A-" from LA Weekly's Karina Longworth, who writes in her review:

"Holofcener eschews the standard anti-commercialism of indie film to present the accumulation of wealth and stuff as the complicated moral process it is. Please Give may about-face from Holofcener's unique darkness a little too quickly for my tastes, but I appreciate its celebration of the positive potential of consumerism. Buying can be an important act of love, and Please Give beautifully expresses why it's okay and even important to give that kind of love, and to let yourself receive it."

Writing for The A.V. Club at Sundance, Noel Murray is just as impressed. "Please Give is full of moments that don't make it into other movies," he says, "as when Keener and Platt stumble across their blotchy-skinned teenage daughter buying makeup and watch her with a kind of awe, or when they decide to treat her to a pair of $200 jeans. I can understand why some people might find it faintly distasteful to make a movie about guilty rich folks who give themselves permission to splurge. Me, I appreciate the honesty. With Holofcener, I always do."

Check out other (mostly positive) reviews from: New York Magazine's David Edelstein, The New Yorker's David Denby, IFC.com's Matt Singer and The Film Experience's Nat Rogers.

Matching "Please Give"'s "B+" average on criticWIRE was, believe it or not, The Human Centipede. indieWIRE's own Eric Kohn called it a "sensational metaphor" in his review, going on to say that while "easy to deride, and easier to dismiss, 'The Human Centipede' nonetheless works as a calculated provocation. Demented in premise and execution, Dutch filmmaker Tom Six’s grotesque exercise in shock cinema has enough competence on its own terms to allow for a deeper reading."

"Many will argue the point of the film, many will say that it simply has none, but The Human Centipede is fascinating for refusing to wear its meaning on its sleeve," Slant's Ed Gonzalez added in his review. "Its images are frightening, but the implications of Heiter's rage is more so."

Not everyone - as one would expect - fell in love with "Centipede." New York Magazine's David Edelstein downright hated it, saying "the movie stinks to heaven."

Other reviews include Variety's Peter Debruge (negative) and FearNet's Scott Weinberg (positive).

In addition to Holofcener and "The Human Centipede," other specialty films opening this weekend include Dover Koshashvili's "Anton Chekhov’s The Duel," Daniel Barber's "Harry Brown," Patrick Hoelck's "Mercy," Dagur Kári's "The Good Heart," and Jac Schaeffer's "TiMER." Check out links to each film's indieWIRE page below, which includes synopses, trailers and a variety of criticWIRE grades and links to reviews.

iW Film Calendar & criticWIRE:
criticWIRE | Opening this week | Opening this month | All Films A - Z

criticWIRE: Films Opening This Week

Please Give (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

The Human Centipede (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

Mercy (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

Harry Brown (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

The Good Heart (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: not yet rated

Anton Chekhov’s The Duel (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: not yet rated

TiMER (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: not yet rated


criticWIRE: Films Currently In Theaters

Everyone Else (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: A-

Exit Through The Gift Shop (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: A-

Women Without Men (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

The Good, The Bad, The Weird (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

When You're Strange: A Film About The Doors (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B+

The Square (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

The Secret In Their Eyes (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

La Mission (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

Pornography: A Thriller (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B

No One Knows About The Persian Cats (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B-

The City of Your Final Destination (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B-

The Misfortunates (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: B-

Breaking Upwards (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: C+

The Greatest (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: C+

The Jonses (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: C+

After.Life (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: C-

Paper Man (iW film page)
Average criticWIRE rating: C

Peter Knegt is indieWIRE's Associate Editor. Follow him on Twitter and on his blog.

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