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In Praise of Cold Hearts: Peet Like We've Never Seen Her In "Please Give"

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In Praise of Cold Hearts: Peet Like We've Never Seen Her In "Please Give"

"Please Give" is not one of those independent films where worthy people do worthy things while dealing with their human frailties. It's also a film where the likes of Catherine Keener obsess about doing the right thing to the point of distraction.

This sets up the perfect scenario for some thrilling onscreen Grade-A cold-hearted characters.

Amanda Peet is Mary, an emotionally broken adult dealing with an orphaned upbringing that had her and her sister, Rebecca (Rebecca Hall), raised by a twisted grandmother.  (Dad skipped town and their mother killed herself.)

Rebecca heads the saintly route, while Mary goes unapologetically into the other direction. The tanning-bed loving Mary has an affair with a married man because she's bored, drinks too much and stalks her ex-boyfriends' new girlfriend. She does all of this with the slightest of smiles on her face.

It's not something we've seen from Peet. It's fantastic.

Peet almost gets outmatched -- or certainly out-baddied -- by 81-year-old Ann Morgan Guilbert as the twisted grandmother. She's the clear root of the family's evil. There are glimpses of humanness in this red hair-dye loving senior, but mostly she's quick to blurt out the one thing that no one wants to say. Your present sucks, you're getting fat, you've got cancer. Cringe-worthy, yes. But her character makes for exhilarating viewing and prompts the odd-twisted smile despite it all. She's just that bad.

This being an indie film, Guilbert is allowed to be unrelenting. There are touches of a human breakthrough, but nothing lasting and nothing remotely Hollywood. The only redemption we see in the close-up of her eyes which are surprisingly full of sadness. And that's the way it should be.

If they gave an Oscar, instead an MTV Award, for Best Baddy -- which they should -- both of these guys would be in serious contention. They are the best part of this film.

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