Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Movie Review: Enough Said

Enough Said
Directed by: Nicole Holofcener.
Written by: Nicole Holofcener.
Starring: Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Eva), James Gandolfini (Albert), Catherine Keener (Marianne), Toni Collette (Sarah), Tracey Fairaway (Ellen), Ben Falcone (Will), Tavi Gevinson (Chloe), Amy Landecker (Debbie), Anjelah Johnson-Reyes (Cathy), Eve Hewson (Tess), Toby Huss (Peter), Kathleen Rose Perkins (Fran).
To a certain extent, I understand why some have dismissed Enough Said as a “big screen sitcom”. The movie does, after all, star two people best known for TV and not film, has a central premise that could easily be used on any number of bad sitcoms, and has the kind of large ensemble cast that can provide subplots to the main action, like we often see in sitcoms. And yet, there is no network sitcom on TV now – and hasn’t been in a long time – that is this funny, sensitively written, directed and acted, or this relatable and human as Enough Said. You can say the film is basically a sitcom if you want to – but if it really was a sitcom, it would be one of the best on TV.

The movie stars Julia Louis-Dreyfuss as Eva – a middle aged massage therapist, divorced for a decade, and dealing with the impending departure of her only daughter to University across the country. One night, she accompanies her bickering friends (Toni Collette and Ben Falcone) to a party – and meets two people. The first is Marianne (Catherine Keener) a successful poet (and if you don’t believe such a thing exists, neither does Eva) – who likes Eva, and could use a massage therapist. She then meets Albert (James Gandolfini), a big bear of a man, but a nice one – gentle, kind and funny. Later, he’ll call her up for a date – and she accepts – and Marianne hires her as her massage therapist, and because she doesn’t have many friends, also adopts Eva for some girl talk. Eva eventually discovers that Albert and Marianne used to be married – the harpy Albert complains about is her new friend, and the pig Marianne complains about is the man Eva has unexpectedly fallen for. Rather than come clean, she decides to keep the fa├žade going for a while – as a way to find out what may be wrong with Albert. Of course, at some point, everyone (even Eva) knows it will blow up in her face.

That does, admittedly, sound like a sitcom. And yet, Enough Said is so well written and acted, that I didn’t mind it at all. Louis-Dreyfuss and Gandolfini have a wonderful, unexpected chemistry together right from the outset. Louis-Dreyfuss may be playing a character not a million miles away from some of her TV work – and yet she makes Eva a character all her own – a likable smart, funny woman, who nevertheless does some things we (and she) knows that she shouldn’t. The bigger revelation is the late Gandolfini. Because of his physical appearance, his pre-Sopranos career basically consisted of him playing the heavy in movie after movie. The Sopranos showed he made more range – but as complex as Tony Soprano was, he was also scary and physically imposing. The same cannot be said about his work in Enough Said. He’s as big as ever (bigger probably), but there is nothing scary about Albert – he is funny, kind, thoughtful and sensitive. Yes, he’s a big man, but he never uses his size to intimidate – he almost uses it as protection. I knew Gandolfini was a great actor – and he had been getting great reviews for his role here – but even with that knowledge, his performance here still surprised me with just how wonderful he is. The first date the two go on is the best scene in the movie – and one of the best of its kind in recent memory. When eventually Eva’s secret comes out – as it must – the movie doesn’t have the expected fireworks – the yelling and screaming we often see in movies like this. Just a quiet, heartbreaking moment from Gandolfini.

The rest of the movie works fine as well – although Holofcener does try to add perhaps one or two too many subplots into the film. They work fine, but they distract from what makes the movie so special – which is the relationship between Eva and Albert. Holofcener has long been one of the best indie writer-directors working – in films like Lovely and Amazing, Friends with Money and Please Give, she tells the kind of stories, about the kind of women that all too infrequently appear in movies of any kind. Enough Said is another winner from Holofcener – a romantic comedy for grown-ups.

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