Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is a single parent who works as a masseuse, and is dreading the day that her daughter leaves her for college. She meets and bonds with Albert (James Gandolfini), a man who is also facing an empty nest and they start dating. At the same time, Eva befriends a new customer, Marianne (Catherine Keener), who is a poet that can't stop complaining about her ex-husband. Suddenly, Eva finds herself doubting her own relationship as she learns the truth about Marianne's ex.
TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Writer and director Nicole Holofcener’s Enough Said bears the heavy distinction of being the first of James Gandolfini’s last three completed projects to be released in the wake of the actor’s sudden death this past June. A deceptively light dramatic comedy with classic bones and modern finishing, Enough Said stars Gandolfini as the straight, available man to Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s kooky, comfortably single divorcée. It’s a measure of the film’s success that Gandolfini’s presence in such an unlikely role feels so purely enjoyable. The spell is broken by the closing dedication: 'For Jim."
A deceptively light dramatic comedy with classic bones and modern finishing
Neither Eva (Louis-Dreyfus) nor Albert (Gandolfini) expects much from the party where they meet. Both middle-aged and divorced with daughters heading off to university, their first marriages left them fully acquainted with the perils of compromise, especially as it affects one’s sense of self. They know too much to fall in love as easily as they might have, say, 20 years before. 'It’s hard to believe I ever had a laugh with that man" Eva says of her first husband, a line Louis-Dreyfus inflects with more wonder than regret.
Eva, a traveling massage therapist, isn’t initially attracted to Albert, at least in part because she’s not in the habit of being attracted to anyone. She’s absolutely smitten, however, with Marianne (Holofcener favourite Catherine Keener), a poet Eva meets at the same party, whose immaculate home instills in Eva profound lifestyle envy. Holofcener, known for casting a dry eye on bougie anthropological detail in films like Friends with Money and Please Give, has fun with Marianne’s casual perfection, from her homemade ice tea to the rare herbs growing in her yard, and Keener is perfectly cast as the effortless doyenne who makes other women feel like they’re doing it all wrong. Marianne, also divorced, becomes Eva’s client and confidante, and the viewer figures out before Eva does the fulcrum of this wispy romantic farce: Albert is Marianne’s lamented ex.
In Marianne, Eva finds a natural accelerant for her nagging doubts, and maintains both relationships without divulging the connection. Albert, by contrast, is less worried, more open to possibility. At the sundae joint where he brings Eva after their first dinner together, he mocks the non-committal young women nervously sampling flavours. Take a chance, he cracks. It’s ice cream, not a mortgage. When it comes to romance, that kind of cost/benefit analysis grows more tempting with age, Holofcener suggests. Older and wiser might also mean older and more tired, more jaded, less willing to take a chance on the strawberry swirl.
The pleasures of Enough Said are less in its narrative intricacies or nuance—the plot heads toward and then away from a predictable reveal—than its performances. Louis-Dreyfus proves more than capable of a role that layers her exquisite comic persona with unexpected dramatic registers. On their first few dates, Eva and Albert’s comic sympathies evolve into a manic rapport—when in doubt, they banter. When they do finally fall into bed, the release is manifold: 'I’m so tired of being funny," Eva confesses, and her exhausted relief is in fact funnier than any of the script’s many one-liners. Gandolfini counters Louis-Dreyfus’ hummingbird energy with calm and natural ballast. His Albert is a kind of marital refugee, happy to be out but seeking a new and better home. Supporting performances from Toni Collette (as Eva’s married but deeply bored best friend) and Tavi Gevinson (as the needy friend of Eva’s daughter) fill out a solid ensemble. Holofcener excels at bringing more to her movies than first meets the eye: Enough Said, older and wiser, may have the softest heart of all her films, a fitting gift for Jim and for the rest of us.
Watch 'Enough Said'
Tuesday 26 January, 1:10am on SBS VICELAND (NOTE: No catch-up at SBS On Demand)
Director: Nicole Holofcener
Starring: James Gandolfini, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Catherine Keener, Toni Collette, Tavi Gevinson