Romantic Comedy ‘Enough Said’ is a Sweet, Gentle Gem

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Average: 5 (1 vote) Oscarman rating: 4.5/5.0
Rating: 4.5/5.0

CHICAGO – The plot description which this review will eventually get to is going to make Nicole Holofcener’s “Enough Said” sound sitcomish. It’s a conceit straight out of Must-See TV. And so I want to say up front that you need to dismiss the overly slapstick-y preview and your hesitation about the plot and embrace this gem of a comedy, the rare laugher made by adults for adults that understands dynamics of human relationships beyond meet-cutes and slapstick humor. It gets to the heart of some very rarely explored concepts in relationship films like the idea that just because a person isn’t right for one spouse doesn’t mean he won’t be right for another. Holofcener and her ridiculously talented cast find truth about love and second chances not in their set-up but in the honesty of the characters placed within it. I love this movie.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, so remarkably perfect on TV in shows like “Seinfeld” and “Veep,” for which she just won a second Emmy, does easily the best film work of her career as Eva, a divorced woman whose daughter is heading off to college, leaving her to wonder what’s next in her life. As she jokes with best friend Sarah (Toni Collette), she needs a hobby. Despite Sarah’s unusual marriage with Will (Ben Falcone), Sarah thinks it might be good if Eva met a man, which she happens to do at a party when she’s introduced to Albert (James Gandolfini). He’s not her typical beau. He’s overweight, a little gruff, and rough around the edges. But there’s something charming about him and the two have a great first date.

Enough Said
Enough Said
Photo credit: Fox Searchlight

Eva doesn’t just find potential romance at the party; she also meets the charismatic Marianne (Catherine Keener), a poet. No, seriously. Marianne is the kind of woman who grows her own herbs in the garden outside her perfectly considered home. Every element is in place and I think her sense of order appeals to Eva, a woman without as much in place. Eva, a massage therapist, begins a professional relationship with Marianne but the two quickly become real friends and the poet begins complaining about her ex-husband, as people are prone to do. He was a slob. He was indecisive. He was unmotivated. Of course, his name was Albert.

I’ll admit that when the turn happened and Eva realized that the awful ex-husband about whom Marianne complained was her new beau, I cringed a bit at the set-up but Holofcener uses it to get to something really interesting about human dynamics and how we can poison each other’s opinions of other people to such a large degree. Eva starts seeing in Albert the complaints levied by Marianne. Sarah jokes that Eva is using her like Travelocity, trying to get all the details about where she’s potentially “staying” but Holofcener understands that people aren’t that simple. What drives one ex-wife crazy won’t even register with the next one. It’s not so much that people change, although the film addresses that as well, but that the way one person responds to another is not universal. It’s how we deal with each other that changes. The balance of annoyance and acceptance is different in every relationship. What would drive one person crazy is overwhelmed by love for another. It’s a challenging subject for a screenwriter and Holofcener nails it. This is one of my favorite scripts of the year.

Enough Said
Enough Said
Photo credit: Fox Searchlight

It’s also one of my favorite ensembles. There’s not a weak player, and they’re all led by the most honest, emotional, and downright surprising performance from Louis-Dreyfus. It’s a subtle, gentle turn that makes me like how extreme she is on “Veep” even more by comparison because it’s so drastically different. And then there’s James. It’s a performance that is so bittersweet because it’s the best thing he’s done on film and yet it’s the last chance we’ll have to appreciate him. Talk about going out on a beautiful high note. He’s SO good here, refusing to play Albert as schlub, recognizing the gentle humanity in a guy who’s really just trying to make it with an ex-wife and a kid going off to college. He’s so shockingly real that his performance will be underrated (as so many of his often were). Collette and Keener are, as they always are, fantastic, but the movie belongs to JLD and Gandolfini.

“Enough Said” sneaks up on you. It’s not a flashy film. It’s not high-concept. And it will be too easily written off by snarky viewers as sitcom-y. And yet I found Eva and Albert two of the most likable, genuine, real characters I’ve met all year. When the movie was over, I was sad because I wanted to spend more time with these two. That’s a filmmaking accomplishment that is all too rare these days.

“Enough Said” stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus, James Gandolfini, Toni Collette, Ben Falcone, and Catherine Keener. It was written and directed by Nicole Holofcener. It is now playing in some markets and opens tomorrow, September 27, 2013, in Chicago. content director Brian Tallerico

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