James Gandolfini gives a charming performance in Enough Said as Albert, a shy and caring divorcee braving the dating game for the second time around.
It's a very different role for the actor who found fame around the world as the self-obsessed, aggressive Mob boss prone to panic attacks in award-winning drama The Sopranos.
Offering a refreshingly honest view of dating and relationships, the big screen flick certainly fills a gap in the fairytale world of romantic comedies. Louis-Dreyfus and Gandolfini share a heart-warming chemistry, at the same time as being very funny. So it's all the more moving that Gandolfini is no longer here to celebrate the triumph.
The Sopranos actor died from a heart attack in June, aged just 51, after completing work on the film.
"It's bittersweet, I really wish that he could be here standing next to me," admits Louis-Dreyfus.
"Having said that though, I think this movie is a celebration of his enormous talent. It's a triumph and a lovely thing for his legacy. I'm so proud to have been in this film with him."
"I'm still shocked that he's gone," confesses Holofcener. "It's really weird and really tragic. He's incredibly talented and wonderful in the movie.
"And selfishly, this would have been a really fun part of the process - he swore he was going to do press with me. He hated doing interviews but I think he would have been proud of the movie and would have been happy to do [the publicity], so it's just sad."
In the film, Eva meets Albert at a party and they connect over their misgivings that both their daughters are about to leave home to go to college.
On the same evening, Eva meets Marianne, a poet played by Catherine Keener, and they also strike up a friendship.
In the weeks that follow, Eva begins dating Albert, and also spends time listening to new friend Marianne moaning about all her ex-husband's imperfections, before she eventually realises that's who she's dating.
Suddenly knowing all the niggling habits that can lead to a break-up - right at the beginning of her relationship - she begins to doubt her own feelings for Albert.
Gandolfini was apparently just as surprised to be offered the role of the romantic hero as audiences might be to see him in it.
Throughout his career he played a series of dominant, aggressive men, but part of his great talent was his ability to always show the human side of his characters, no matter how unlikeable they were.
One of his first major film roles was as a violent mobster in True Romance in 1993. He notably also played a US army general in comedy In The Loop, the director of the CIA in the Oscar-nominated Zero Dark Thirty, and a party-loving assassin in Killing Them Softly with Brad Pitt.
But it was as mob boss Tony Soprano that Gandolfini was best known to so many. The show centred on Tony who, after being diagnosed with panic attacks caused by the stress of his job, is sent to therapy. One minute he would be involved in a violent murder, the next he would be pouring out his heart to his psychiatrist.
But the actor had never before been the lead in a romantic comedy. "I think originally he was somewhat intimidated and he felt a little like, 'What am I doing in this picture, as the lead actor, the guy who gets the girl?'" says Louis-Dreyfus.
"But it made him that much more loveable that he was self-effacing and it was actually very sweet."
Holofcener believes it was Gandolfini's insecurity that made him so perfect for the role.
"When I first cast Julia, I said, 'What do you think of James Gandolfini?' And she said, 'Oh sexy! Great, get him!'
"And then I asked Jim what do you think of Julia Louis-Dreyfus and he said, 'Are you kidding with me? That's a dream!'
"I think it took a while for him to trust that this was all going to work and not embarrass him. Although that's what made him such a good actor - he was pretty much always embarrassed and I think an actor who's embarrassed is an actor who's always exposing themselves."
Holofcener has made a string of indie comedies often focusing on relationships between women, and was surprised to find Gandolfini had seen and liked them.
"It was thrilling to think 'Tony Soprano likes my movies', but it really helped because he got my style, he got the kind of movies I like to make."
There are many tender moments in the film between Albert and Eva. Rolling around in bed giggling, or applying a plaster to her injured foot, Gandolfini is like a big cuddly bear.
"There was a lot of laughing," says Holofcener. "We were all very immature and on an equal level.
"He was fun, and at the same time very serious. It didn't feel easy to him to play such a vulnerable character.
"I think he was anxious to take on a role that he hadn't had a chance to play yet. His character in The Sopranos was complex, and I think he was extraordinary in it. I didn't worry about whether he could be funny or emotional because he was all those things."
Then there's Holofcener's hilarious portrait of relationships and her heart-wrenching commentary on how to cope when your children fly the nest, all performed so brilliantly.
But watching this film is really to marvel at the talent of James Gandolfini.
"You can see his abilities were very deep," says Louis-Dreyfus. "He was an amazing actor. In fact, this part is much closer to him than Tony Soprano was, in so many ways, which will be nice for his fans to see."