A Son Competes for Memories of His Father in ‘Give or Take’

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Has Martin (Jamie Effros) been cheated out of a relationship with his father? Is Ted (Tony-winner Norbert Leo Butz), his father’s live-in boyfriend, a villain or victim?

These questions and others arise in “Give or Take,” a film from Writer-Star Effros and Writer-Director Paul Riccio, and might strike a chord with anyone–whether a parent, partner, stepchild, or lover–who’s felt in competition for a loved ones’ affections.

Cheri Oteri

Cheri Oteri

Effros and Butz are formidable opponents in “Give or Take,” as both personify sympathetic characters. (The film, in release Friday, Feb. 11, at the Laemmle Royal in Los Angeles and in New York at the Quad Cinemas, will be available on DVD/digital release on Feb. 22.)

Martin is the son of the recently deceased Ken. He’s rarely spoken to his father since his mother’s death six years prior, having moved to New York City. Ted, the landscaper-turned-love of Ken’s life, is sleeping in the bed that Martin’s parents used to share.

When it comes time for the memorial service and settling ownership of his father’s things, Martin travels from the city and attempts to coexist in the home that once belonged to his parents. Before long, Martin is lashing out at Ted, who’s done his best to be welcoming: “It was my house before it was your house. Just because you’ve lived here a few years does it mean you get to claim him.”

Martin tries to lean–rather ineffectively via texts–on his girlfriend Lauren (Annapurna Sriram). He is the outsider in a Cape Cod community that he once knew. Everyone he comes across seems to accept his father and Ted as a couple; the Ken they knew even has different interests—really, the Red Sox?–than the father he remembers.

“I’m glad he became a f***ing saint for all of you,” Martin sneers.

Meanwhile, Ted tries to cope with the devastating loss of Ken, his partner in life. He welcomes Martin into the home as best he can, while carrying on with normal daily routines–supplemented by alcohol. This doesn’t work so well for him, or those around him.

Martin and Ted get sympathetic support from Ken’s friends: Joanne Tucker, who plays a bartender and Martin’s childhood friend Emma, and Louis Cancelmi, who plays the kind, pothead/cosmically-enlightened pool guy Terrence. Both give notable performances in these peripheral roles. Cheri Oteri (“Saturday Night Live”) humorously portrays the worst-case-scenario real estate agent, Patty.

In his filmmaker statement, Riccio said he believes that the themes in “Give or Take”–loss, grief, remembrance, connection, honesty–are shared by all of us.

Indeed, “Give or Take” is about the give-and-take that is sometimes necessary when your relationships include people who love the people you love–or are/were loved by the people you love.

For more about the film, go to



Journalist Laurie Schenden covers the entertainment industry, with many of her notable celebrity interviews appearing in the Los Angeles Times and other national and international publications. As a longtime columnist and feature writer for the LA Times, she also covered events and California destinations for the lifestyle, Outdoors and Travel sections. Laurie Schenden's international pieces include the long-running Where Are They Now celebrity feature for Spotlight Magazine, published in five languages. Laurie has also contributed to numerous documentary films, and produces content via Saving Grace Films.

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