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Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures

As a writer, director, and observer of contemporary life, Nicole Holofcener just keeps getting better and better. Now, in the wake of her perceptive, Manhattan-based Please Give she offers us Enough Said, a Los Angeles-based portrait of a massage therapist (Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, in a beautifully nuanced performance) who’s a single mom with a daughter about to leave the nest for college. Louis-Dreyfuss is socially awkward but meets her match at a backyard party: a reticent, bear-like man (the late James Gandolfini) who shares a low-key, self-deprecating sense of humor. They’re comfortable enough with each other, even on a first date, to joke about their own discomfort.

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Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures

How this relationship develops is the marvel of Holofcener’s seamless screenplay and her unerring eye for casting (including a costarring role for her favorite actress, Catherine Keener), even as the story’s focus widens to embrace other characters. Louis-Dreyfuss’ best friend, Toni Collette, is a great sounding board even though she has a notably prickly relationship with her own husband, Ben Falcone. This is fundamentally a comedy, yet every situation has dramatic undercurrents and the possibility of turning serious—even heartbreaking—at a moment’s notice.

A true social satirist, Holofcener revels in the ordinary. Gandolfini lives in a bland, midcentury suburban house where he and Louis-Dreyfuss have a probing conversation on the backdoor stoop. (Who would stage a scene in a set-up like that but an ex-New Yorker?) In the course of telling her central story, the filmmaker manages to deal with such first-world problems as contending with a quixotic housekeeper, lavishing too much attention on your daughter’s best friend, trying to Skype with a gal-pal who’s a psychiatrist with patients waiting for her, and more.

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Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures

I’ve actually heard people grumble that Holofcener is too wrapped up in the lives of affluent characters on both Coasts. I don’t understand the complaint. This is her milieu and she knows it well; that’s why her films play so honestly. Here, she has given Louis-Dreyfuss and the late Gandolfini—who have made such an impact on television—the best roles of their big-screen careers. These are real people who mean well but make unfortunate mistakes…and the actors allow us to see them at their most vulnerable. Louis-Dreyfuss reveals colors and shadings we’ve never seen before, while Gandolfini is irresistibly likable in his least characteristic role. Enough Said makes one mourn his loss all the more.

I love this film and the people in it. It’s a rare instance of a movie I look forward to watching a second time.