by writer/director Nicole Holofcener
About twenty years ago I went with my mother and a group of volunteers on Christmas Day to sing Christmas carols to the residents of a mental hospital. Seemed like a good idea at the time. What mentally ill person doesn't want strangers to sing songs to them? There we were, guilt-ridden (Jews, mostly, I'm sure), singing to people who didn't know which way was up, left completely alone and family-less on Christmas day. It was awful, sad, incredibly pointless—I started to cry and couldn't stop. I had to run off and find privacy in a stairwell where I was comforted by my mother.
The other day, I'm driving my 12-year-old kid to school and we see a homeless woman lying on the sidewalk, barefoot and cold. I pull off my very fuzzy Brookstone socks and give them to my son. I say, "Honey. Offer these to her, she must be freezing." So he hops out of the car and I see him say something to her and give her the socks. A second later the socks come flying at him and he runs back to me, holding them. "She told me she doesn't want our fucking socks!" He looks traumatized, and I wonder when I will stop doing this.
My attempt to give has become somewhat ridiculous and that is what inspired a great deal of this movie. Kate (played by Catherine Keener) tries to be a good person and attempts to volunteer, offer food to the hungry and do the right thing at the right time. But it doesn't always prove to be gratifying or even remotely helpful, and this is where the comedy (and ultimately the tragedy) for Kate, lies.
This movie is also about really nice furniture, pimples, being a parent and a lot of other important things that make us flawed and alive. What does it mean to be a good person? What is the most meaningful way to give? How can we feel good about ourselves when we get socks thrown in our face?