Enough Said (2013), from writer/director Nicole Holofcener in another addition to the middle aged relationship drama–because if I don’t reduce her work to a simplistic label, who will?–has gone for something a little more touching than painful. Sure, they hurt each other and Catherine Keener is around, so it’s still a Holofcener picture, but Enough Said inspires far more happy laughs and sighs of delight than her last film Please Give (2010). What will attract most to this film, other than the Golden Globe nomination for Julia Louis-Dreyfus, is that this is one of James Gandolfini‘s final films before his untimely death. Many have felt some consolation that Gandolfini could go out on a film like Enough Said that was a quality movie and expressed his gentle, lovable side rather than another gritty tough-guy role. I just want to see some more.
Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is a divorcée with her only daughter (Tracey Fairaway) about to head off to college in the fall. Her friend Sarah (Toni Collette) helps her to get out once in a while and they go to a party. There, she meets Marianne (Catherine Keener) who is a poet in need of a masseuse (which is Eva’s profession). She also meets Albert (James Gandolfini) who, while not immediately attractive, is funny and charming and also divorced. The two relationships go ahead and go quite well until Eva realizes that the ex-husband Marianne has been ruthlessly complaining about is Albert. This leaves her in a dilemma. Does she continue to work for and be friends with Marianne and learn all the unflattering foibles of her new boyfriend? She does.
This initial set-up suggests the kind of rom-com with which many will be familiar. A relationship under false pretenses that must inevitably be revealed dooming the relationship from the beginning. It’s very easy to shrug at that as a cliché or trite and avoid the movie. “I’ve seen that.” How often do I have to try out a movie before I finally convince myself that, as far as films are concerned, this is an irrelevance? “That which has been is what will be, That which is done is what will be done, And there is nothing new under the sun.” While the Bible didn’t have anything to say about the iPhone, when it comes to stories and humans, anything that is new is new by expression. How does the actor or the writer or the director evoke certain feelings in us that bubble below the surface? If it is interesting or well done, then it will bring us back in touch with ourselves and others and that’s worth doing.
Enough Said is also hilarious. Louis-Dreyfus’s performance, a given for delivering comedy, often has a little touch of characterization to it. Where she might just use a quick facial tick to be frustrated or bored or confused for comic effect in Veep (2012-)–a great show by the way–Louis-Dreyfus will do the same with sadness or discomfort or anxiety for dramatic effect in Enough Said. Really she does both. It’s great work. Gandolfini is just a great gentle bear with a great sense of humor. His actions are broader, but he brings so much vulnerability to the part. He is completely charming. Holofcener’s dialogue is terrific and terrifically performed by the whole cast. The only qualm I have with the script is why Eva likes Marianne at all. The resulting spawn of Marianne’s former marriage (Eve Hewson) suggests that her negativity isn’t just when she’s talking about Albert, but a full-time occupation.
Every year, it seems, there’s a movie like this that goes by and does well with critics but gets missed for some of the same reasons I missed Enough Said in theaters. Last year, that was Your Sister’s Sister (2012). Touching, small-scale, and incredibly funny. There’s also the element of “I’ll catch it on streaming”. Why see this on the big screen? My answer is that you see these films on the big screen because when they come to blu-ray or streaming, then it’s one more choice in an endless ocean of choices. Well, it’s out now and if you missed Enough Said in theaters, then you’ve got to catch it on blu-ray. This is a reminder.