ENOUGH SAID-- 4 STARS
There are two warm and cuddly nostalgic emotions that come out of watching Enough Said, the romantic comedy and fifth feature film from writer/director Nicole Holofcener (Friends With Money, Walking and Talking, Lovely and Amazing). The first is wondering how Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the four-time Emmy winner and most nominated comedic actress in television history, hasn't made more jumps to film over the years. It's been 16 years since her last life-action feature role as part of Woody Allen's ensemble in 1997's Deconstructing Harry. She's too good of an actress not to have been granted more bigger stages. The second lingering emotion is just how much we are all going to miss the late James Gandolfini. While he'll chiefly be remembered as mafioso Tony Soprano, his role in Enough Said reminds us just how versatile, skilled, and under-appreciated he was when not playing the bad guy.
Enough Said is a smart and mature romantic comedy for the over-40 crowd that's a breath of fresh air when compared to younger and dumber entries in the genre. It packs a thoughtful punch of realism that elevates it from the calculated Hollywood whimsy we're use to seeing from the usual Nora Ephron or Nancy Meyers territory that serves this age range. Enough Said is a very nice date movie for a fall season and calendar year drastically under-serviced in that department.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus stars as Eva, a private masseuse in the Los Angeles area who has a loyal client base. She is divorced and single, but is the proud mom of a daughter (newcomer Tracey Fairaway) who is getting set to leave for college at the end of the summer. Too often, Eva is stuck as the third wheel to her married best friend Sarah (The Way Way Back's Toni Collette) and her husband Will (Ben Falcone of Bridesmaids and What to Expect When You're Expecting).
At a posh dinner party, Sarah and Will introduce Eva to popular published poet Marianne (Holofcener regular Catherine Keener), a fellow divorcee and kindred spirit to the quirks of approaching 50 and being single again. They bond nicely and Eva picks up a new massage client. Later at the same party, Eva strikes up flirty conversation with Albert (Gandolfini), yet another fellow divorcee and parent to an upcoming college freshman. Both share the disdain of maintaining appearances in people-meeting situations like this and trade a few fun-poking barbs. They too click and Albert musters up the courage to ask Eva out on a date. In a great first date, they share their backgrounds and cut through a lot of the usual B.S. to be very real and surprisingly comfortable with each other. Eva normally isn't attracted to a guy like Albert, but finds herself really intrigued and interested.
Eva gushes a little about her new steady date to Sarah and also to Marianne as she begins regular massage sessions. Eva is used to hearing the blah-blah nonsense of her clients, but with Marianne the conversation is interesting and motivating as they both talk about failed relationships. Marianne constantly berates her ex-husband. The trailer gives away this tip-of-the-iceberg twist, but the ex-husband that Marianne keeps talking about just happens to be Albert, the guy Eva can't like enough. That conflicting knowledge and gossip eats at Eva as her relationship with Albert grows.
In a breezy 93 minutes, that juicy twist presents all kinds of challenges for the Eva character as Enough Said progresses. Honesty and loyalty gets tested. Does she believe all of Marianne's girl-to-girl vitriol about Albert or does she allow herself to find these things out for herself and on her own terms about a guy she really likes? All along the way, the parental sides of both Eva and Albert act as a strong secondary layer to the story. In this way, Holofcener populates a little niche movie with more than one angle worth following, neither of which are overtly sappy. Collette, Falcone, and Keener are nice supporting characters. The romance might be the core, but its one that feels like it could happen to any divorcee with kids where relationships are forgotten pleasures with real life constantly getting in the way.
Much like Gwyneth Paltrow and Mark Ruffalo from the recent Thanks For Sharing, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini have an extraordinarily palpable and contagious chemistry. Their first date and follow-up encounters are fun, realistic, and a pleasure to watch unfold. They play two characters that let their guard down for hopeful mutual affection and do the same as performers drifting out of their comfort zones and typecasts. Louis-Dreyfus puts away her usual exacerbating personality she puts in her award-winning television characters and plays a woman eager to fall in love and be loved. Gandolfini shows a romantic side we've never seen and taps into the spontaneity of his Meisner acting roots. Both become comfortable in their own skin which is what you love and long to see. Their scenes together are pure magic and the best reason to see Enough Said.
James has one more major feature film role in post-production, that being the crime drama Animal Rescue starring Tom Hardy and Noomi Repace from the writer of Mystic River, Gone Baby Gone, and Shutter Island. That film will likely show the tough side of Gandolfini that we are used to, but there's something special about getting to see him do something as different at Enough Said. It's his final leading role and a good one. It's a welcome departure and real treat that reminds all of us just how much he had to offer outside of the norm. He will be missed.
LESSON #1: DATING AS A DIVORCEE WITH TEENS OR ADULT CHILDREN-- We've seen romantic comedy scenarios before of 40-or-50-somethings trying to date again, but they always seem to carry around the cliches of rebellious teens or home-wrecked children who are resistant to seeing their single parent find love again. It's absolutely refreshing to see two dating divorcees who are honest and comfortable with their new relationships to children who get what they are trying to do without cheesy self-centered caution. It's nice not to have to think "get over yourself" to some petulant kid character every 15 minutes. Their parents are still "package deals" for their new partners, but they sure don't come across as the same kind of cliched baggage.
LESSON #2: POISONING YOUR PERCEPTION OF SOMEONE-- Have you ever gotten a report or account of some person's reputation or flaws before getting to meet them yourself where you are free to create your own first impression? That's the difficulty Eva has with being around Marianne as this film progresses. A helpful heads-up is one thing, but an unfair bashing before experience is something else.
LESSON #3: THE RELATIONSHIP VERSION OF "TO EACH HIS OWN"-- Stepping beyond the simplicity of "one's man trash is another man's treasure," there is a real truth to be found that some people are not for everyone. What you may despise or not like about someone else as a spouse or lover, another person might love and find endearing or even sexy. Just because it didn't work for you doesn't mean it can't work for someone else. There's a beauty to be found in new love, new partners, and second chances at love, especially for products of divorce.