(2013)3.5Perry SeibertAlthough Julia Louis-Dreyfus turns in a superb lead performance and writer/director Nicole Holofcener is usually thought of as a storyteller who focuses on women, Enough Said will probably be best remembered as the first picture starring James Gandolfini to be released after his death. That fact casts a bittersweet pall over the movie that only accentuates everything Holofcener gets right about the difficulty of finding love -- a theme presented with such low-key skill that the movie plays beautifully even if you have no emotional attachment to the Sopranos star.
Louis-Dreyfus plays Eva, a middle-aged masseuse raising her college-bound daughter alone after she and her husband split years before. Dragged to a large party one night by her best friend Sarah (Toni Collette), Eva meets Marianne (Catherine Keener), a respected poet who expresses an interest in hiring her. She is also introduced to Albert (James Gandolfini), a portly, good-humored man who makes an unexpected impression on her. She accepts his invitation to go on a date, and they slowly establish a bond thanks to their mutual divorces and similarly aged kids.
Eva also begins visiting Marianne on a regular basis, and soon their relationship grows into something more akin to friendship as Eva talks about the quirks of her new boyfriend and Marianne shares stories about her slob of an ex-husband. As Marianne's stories about her ex reveal more and more of his obnoxiousness, Eva starts to wonder if the unkempt Albert is the right man for her.
Throughout her career, Holofcener has demonstrated a peerless skill at capturing the rhythms of conversation, as well as an insightful grasp of how people's inner lives drive their interactions. From her first film, Walking and Talking, right through Enough Said, she always finds drama in common situations and revels in how seemingly minor conversations can reveal much about her characters. For example, Eva is seen lugging her very heavy and awkward massage table up a large flight of stairs in order to work on a client who happens to be an athletic young man. Later, she gripes to Sarah about the fact that he never offers to help. This is the kind of everyday complaint we all have, but when Eva deals directly with this problem late in the film, Holofcener uses the moment to show us how her main character has evolved. It's a lovely little exchange that doesn't call attention to itself, yet symbolizes everything that's special about the movie.
Louis-Dreyfus is excellent in the main role. She's been nominated for and won several Emmys, but Enough Said gives her a chance to show that she doesn't need years on a television series to create a rich, complex, and very funny character. She and Gandolfini are pretty much flawless together -- she maintains a slight emotional barrier at all times that keeps him off-center, and his affable, shaggy charm is ceaselessly appealing even when Albert's less welcome personal habits grow from being a nuisance to a genuine obstacle for Eva.
However, like seemingly all of Holofcener's main characters, Eva has to come to grips with herself, not the people around her. This truth plays out in a superb subplot involving her growing attachment to her daughter's best friend; it's a realistic way to depict how needy Eva is that doesn't rely on clichés or shorthand, but just presents immediately recognizable human flaws.
Because people in general -- and marketing executives in particular -- find it easy to categorize artists and their work, Nicole Holofcener will probably forever carry the tag of "female filmmaker." This is due in part to the fact she is female, and because her characters tend to not only be women, but deal with issues that are more often than not the stuff of easily dismissed "chick flicks". Labeling her in this way is dismissive both to her talents as a director and her entire filmography, which outshines most of her contemporaries. Enough Said is a welcome addition to her impressive body of work.
A divorced masseuse falls into a romance with a kindhearted empty nester, but starts to question their relationship based on the bitter ramblings of an unhappy client in this dramedy from writer/director Nicole Holofcener (Lovely & Amazing, Please Give). Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is the single mother of a teenage daughter who will soon be heading off to college. A successful masseuse, she rues the thought of an empty home when she crosses paths with the self-described slob Albert (James Gandolfini), a kind man in a similar situation. The blossoming relationship between Eva and Albert is starting to show real promise, too, until Eva's newest client Marianne (Catherine Keener), a successful poet, begins complaining about her ex-husband so intensely that her pessimism begins to rub off on the once-optimistic masseuse.