Nobody makes movies like Nicole Holofcener. Over the course of three films—1996's Walking and Talking, 2001's Lovely and Amazing, 2006's Friends with Money—she's distinguished herself as a writer/director of rare depth and empathy. She's also funny as hell, in that squirmy white-people-doing-their-best-and-failing way, but unlike the various offspring of The Office, Holofcener doesn't insist on clobbering clueless dunces. Nearly all her characters are heroes and villains, depending on whom you ask and when you ask them, and if this makes you think, "Just like real life," that's the point.
Holofcener's latest film, Please Give, is another small, hilarious, empathy-rich comedy about the million and one mundane, quietly terrifying things that make up modern life. The players are a gaggle of 21st-century New Yorkers linked by blood, lust, marriage, furniture, real estate, and death, and the cast—from Holofcener mainstay Catherine Keener to newcomer Sarah Steele to a cameo-making Sarah Vowell—is perfect. But, as always, the most impressive element is Holofcener's masterful handling of the film's flow of tiny moments. Characters bump up against each other and spiral away, and as soon as various strands of action coalesce into an identifiable theme, another branch of the story takes over, enabling Holofcener to communicate dozens of deep ideas without ever overplaying her hand. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll think about it all for days after.