Nancy Meyers, Woody Allen and the late Nora Ephron receive the bulk of praise for writing films about and for women. To that list, we must include Nicole Holofcener, the gifted writer/director who’s been crafting remarkable films since her 1996 debut, Walking and Talking (streaming on Netflix). Enough Said, Holofcener’s latest, slips in nicely with the rest of her strong filmography. It’s a grown-up love story that surprises you, even if you have an idea of its direction, and at the heart of the motion picture is a memorable and realistically portrayed woman played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
In the film, Louis-Dreyfus plays professional masseuse, Eva, a divorced mother whose interest in finding love is tempered by her struggles with the fact that her daughter, Ellen (Tracey Fairaway), will soon be leaving home for college. While attending a party with her best friend, Sarah (Toni Collette) and her husband Will (Ben Falcone), Eva meets two people who will alter her life. The first is a Marianne (Holofcener mainstay, Catherine Keener), a working poet in need of a masseuse and a friend. The second is Albert (James Gandolfini), a good natured, no fuss guy who doesn’t strike Eva’s fancy at all. He’s overweight and kind of a slob.
Much to Eva’s surprise, Albert asks her on a date and they hit it off marvelously. Funny, charming and a softy at heart for his daughter (who is also about to go to college), Albert is nothing what she imagined and Eva finds herself attracted to him. A second date leads to a physical relationship and the two become a couple. At the same time, Eva and Marianne strike up a friendship after Eva becomes Marianne’s masseuse. During their time together, Marianne feels free to complain about her ex-husband, a slob whose idiosyncrasies made her sick. It doesn’t take long before Eva realizes that the ex-husband her new friend despises is the same man she’s falling in love with.
Enough Said seems like a straight forward romantic comedy, with all the hallmarks of the genre — the meet-cute, the falling in love moment, the mistake that nearly ends the relationship — yet Holofcener adds her sensibilities to the story and characters, giving us something unique and refreshing. She’s also blessed with two wonderful actors in the lead roles playing parts that veer away from what audiences have come to expect from them.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus is a comic treasure. From Seinfeld to Veep, she’s mastered playing neurotic, high maintenance women, making the most caustic characters accessible. Eva is one of the most likable characters Louis-Dreyfus has ever played and the emotional moments of the film- when she says goodbye to Ellen and when she must face down Albert after screwing up the relationship — allow the actress to show off her dramatic chops. It shouldn’t be a surprise that an actress who has made us laugh for nearly three decades (they say comedy is more difficult than drama) should be so strong in a drama. Nevertheless, watching her navigate the highs and lows of Eva’s character arc are exciting and refreshing to watch.
There’s a bittersweet feeling you get when watching the sweet and charming performance by Gandolfini. The acting giant died suddenly last summer and Enough Said was one of his final movies. Known primarily for violent, intimidating roles like Tony Soprano, seeing Gandolfini play goofy, sexy, and romantic — a role that was supposedly more like the real man — furthers the sadness of his death. My, how wonderful it would have been to see him in more light, romantic roles like this one.
If only for Louis-Dreyfus and Gandolfini, I’d highly recommend Enough Said, but it has so much to offer, like the marvelous ensemble cast, the cinematography and the perky score. However, the real star of Enough Said is Holofcener. Her direction and writing make this one of the finest of 2013 and definitely places her in the same league as the other greats I mentioned.