BERLIN (Reuters) - Oscar-nominated actress Catherine Keener and independent director Nicole Holofcener team up for the fourth time in "Please Give," a bitter-sweet tale of two families exploring the insecurities of New York's well-to-do.
Keener, best known for her roles in "Being John Malkovich" and "Capote," plays Kate, an affluent furniture store owner with her husband Alex, himself in the throes of a mid-life crisis.
Despite her success and happy home life, she tussles with her conscience as she buys items cheap from families of the recently deceased and sells them on for big profits, and tours charities to see where she might offer help to the needy.
In the words of her daughter Abby, herself neurotic about her bad skin: "She wants to save the world."
The couple have bought the city apartment next door, and are just waiting for its occupier, 91-year-old Andra, to die before turning their living space into something more impressive.
Andra's two grand-daughters -- gentle Rebecca and brutally bitchy Mary -- are the epitome of a dysfunctional family, and the groups come together in a movie full of rapid one-liners and damaged personalities.
"I think that I find humor in almost anything, or I try to and those sad, serious subjects I take very seriously but I guess intuitively I just put some funny stuff in them," Holofcener said at the Berlin film festival on Tuesday.
She wrote the script based on her own experiences and those of friends, including some "calamitous" attempts to volunteer her help in New York, not always with the desired results.
Amanda Peet, who plays Mary, hates her grandmother even though the two acid-tongued relations are more similar than they would care to admit.
"I definitely feel like there are people that are just filled with bile at a certain point after a certain tragedy," Peet said of her character.
"I think mostly people that I know that are like this are older, like my grandmother (in the film)."
The film was financed by Sony Pictures Classics, and so is not strictly independent despite its low budget.
But Holofcener said getting movies like hers made and distributed was still a challenge, a view shared by several U.S. directors in Berlin with small films featuring well-known actors.
The film maker added that the challenge was especially hard for women.
"There's not enough good parts for women," she told reporters after a press screening. "People say you're the only one writing parts like this for women, and I think, well I'm the only one ready to make them (into) movies.
"I'm sure there's a lot of good women out there writing really good parts for women and they are just not getting their voices heard."
Please Give hits U.S. theatres on April 23.
Reporting by Mike Collett-White