There’s nothing overtly deep or stirring about “Please Give,” Nicole Holofcener’s slice of upper-middle class Manhattan life, but you so thoroughly enjoy spending time with her lovable, deeply flawed characters that it hardly matters.

There’s nothing overtly deep or stirring about “Please Give,” Nicole Holofcener’s slice of upper-middle class Manhattan life, but you so thoroughly enjoy spending time with her lovable, deeply flawed characters that it hardly matters.


Like Woody Allen in his prime, Holofcener values irony and truth in telling serio-comic tales about the convergence of narcissism and human frailty.


Although her movies – be it “Walking and Talking,” “Lovely & Amazing,” “Friends With Money" or her latest mini-masterpiece – deal almost exclusively in women, they carry universal appeal to anyone who has ever questioned their existence on Earth.


Another constant in her films is Catherine Keener, Holofcener’s best friend and muse. The pair work splendidly as one, sharing the same hopes, fears and disappointments. And it adds immeasurably to the realism and depth of Holofcener’s free-form stories of women seeking their emotional place in the world.


Both are at their peak in “Please Give,” a slight but highly amusing story about five morally adrift women ranging in age from 15 to 90.


At the heart of it is Keener as Kate, a wife, mother and business woman with a spectacular Manhattan apartment that’s almost as massive as her liberal guilt.


She’s the proverbial woman who has everything, but it’s the “everything” that’s been eating at her, especially when she sees people worse off than her, be it the homeless guy outside her building she slips a 20 to each time she passes, or the grieving relatives she and her husband and business partner, Alex (Oliver Platt), prey on when they come to buy the dearly departed’s priceless heirlooms at a fraction of their worth. Items, I might add, that Kate and Alex turn around and resell at huge mark-ups in their vintage furniture store on 10th Avenue.


Their latest victim … er … prospect is their cantankerous 90-year-old next-door neighbor, Andra (Ann Guilbert from “The Dick Van Dyke Show”), who has agreed to sell them her condo so Kate and Alex can expand their abode once she kicks the bucket.


Part of Kate is hoping the old lady’s funeral arrives sooner than later. But her conscience insists on pulling her in the opposite direction, convincing her that she should try to forge a friendship with the miserable old crank.


Good luck with that. But even though her motivations are self-serving, at least Kate’s making the effort.


It’s that “greed is good” mentality Holofcener is waging war on with her subtle messages about the rich preying on the poor.


It stings, too. But the thing that gets to you most is how much you grow to love her array of richly drawn characters that also include Kate’s materialistic teenage daughter, Abby (Sarah Steele from “Spanglish”), and Andra’s live-in Mutt and Jeff granddaughters, Mary (Amanda Peet) and Rebecca (Rebecca Hall).


What they all share, besides heavy doses of neuroticism, is a longing to connect to something, be it a pair of expensive blue jeans, the environment, inner peace or another person.


Some of them find what they are looking for, some don’t, but everyone gets what they need in a most satisfying and realistic way.


Credit a lot of that to Holofcener’s insightful writing, but her tremendously talented ensemble seals the deal with performances that are terrific across the board, including Peet, who does some of the best acting of her career as the tough but insecure Mary, a cosmetologist who knows all about skin but nothing about what’s going on beneath it.


The movie, though, belongs to Keener, who grabs you by the throat and drags you along on a humorous and surprisingly touching journey through a minefield of guilt and remorse. You cannot help but marvel at how effortlessly she persuades you to love a character you’d normally hate.


But love her, you do. Ditto for the movie, a mish-mash of ideas, styles and tones that blend harmoniously in a “Give” that keeps on giving.


Reach Patriot Ledger writer Al Alexander at aalexander@ledger.com.


PLEASE GIVE (R for language, sexual situations, nudity.) Cast includes Catherine Keener, Oliver Platt, Amanda Peet, Rebecca Hall, Sarah Steele and Ann Guilbert. Written and directed by Nicole Holofcener. 3.5 stars out of 4.