Dave White
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Dave's Rating:

4.0

The guilty rich.

Who's In It: Catherine Keener, Amanda Peet, Oliver Platt, Rebecca Hall, Ann Guilbert, Lois Smith, Sarah Steele, Thomas Ian Nicholas

The Basics: A New York vintage furniture store owner and her husband want to expand their living space, so they purchase the apartment next to theirs, the one owned by a very old, very unpleasant lady. While they somewhat guiltily wait for her to die so they can knock down the walls and move in, they maintain their store's stock of pricey mid-century furniture the same way, buying the former possessions of the recently deceased. Should they feel bad about that? Do they give enough back? Are they awful people? Do they have too much? Call it How To Be a Well-Off White Person and Not Turn Into A Total Monster: The Movie.

What's The Deal: This movie is in the same ballpark as one of French director Eric Rohmer's "moral tales" and just as talky. And it treads on easy-to-hate ground. Because, really, who likes spoiled urban white liberals with too much cash? No one. But where this movie succeeds is in recognizing and being overtly conscious of its characters' privilege. It's not about some other meaningless subject and simply set in a fantastically luxurious environment. The luxurious environment and who deserves it, with an understanding that the world is not a level playing field made of money, is the story. You have to be smart and funny and really aware of yourself to write and direct a film like this, which is exactly what director Nicole Holofcener is.

Recurring Themes: Friends With Money, Holofcener's most recent comedy starring Jennifer Aniston as the one poor person in a group of rich Los Angeles friends, covers some of the same ground as this movie, and just as effectively. And one of the tricks Holofcener knows how to pull off is gaining audience sympathy for her people, no matter what sort of shape they're in, rich or poor, good or bad. It helps that she's got a consistently real muse in the very cool Catherine Keener, a performer who's either really good at stripping away falsehood in herself on screen or who really does have very little of the vanity you normally associate with actors. Not sure which it is yet.

What Amanda Peet Should Do, Starting Now: Only be in movies directed by this woman from now on. Because up until this point nobody else has managed to do much with her talent. I didn't dislike her as an actor. I just had no opinion at all. But she's the most corrosively funny person in this film and it's all thanks to the material and a director who knew how to tap into what she's good at. Oh, and for you actual old people out there, the soon-to-die neighbor is played by Ann Guilbert, who played Mary Tyler Moore's best friend "Milly Helper" on The Dick Van Dyke Show and she's great here, too.

Blink And You'll Miss:A cameo from writer Sarah Vowell, as well as one from Keener's sister Elizabeth (who played the best evil lesbian ever on one season of The L Word). You can't really miss her, the family resemblance is pretty strong.

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