The American romantic comedy is often so crushed under the weight of idiotic contrivances and anti-female tropes that finding one as rich and elegant as Enough Said is reason for celebration. This 2013 picture comes directed and written by Nicole Holofcener and is among the most carefully funny and essentially human films the genre has ever seen.
Beyond the romantic angles, Enough Said also explores solitude, friendship and family. It explores why people drift apart and how influences spread, all the while treating its subject matter with integrity rather than goofball distractions. It is a romantic comedy made for adults, thank goodness.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus is a masseuse named Eva, a divorced mother to Ellen (Tracey Fairaway). Ellen is on her way to college, which is leaving Eva feeling rather lonely. She spends time with her friends (Toni Collette and Ben Falcone) and eventually meets a poet named Marianne (Catherine Keener) at a party. Marianne and Eva become friends.
At the same party, however, Eva also met Albert (James Gandolfini). They begin dating and she is taken by his sense of humour and gentleness. He also has a daughter (Eve Hewson) who is heading to college, so they bond around that. Regrettably, a further snag appears: Albert is Marianne’s ex-husband.
Enough Said navigates this situation charmingly by presenting a series of imperfect but never cynical characters. The situation is happenstance and Eva’s way of dealing with it makes sense. She does the “wrong thing,” but Holofcener’s screenplay never entombs the protagonist in a heap of overwhelming moral mistakes.
The audience understands Eva’s guardedness in terms of getting into a new relationship. Given the grumbles from Marianne, she conceivably has a reason to keep one ear to the ground. Interestingly, Eva finds herself challenging Albert’s flaws in a way that echoes what she hears from Marianne.
That the characters don’t know they know each other is the movie’s stipulation, but it never feels cheap or gratuitous. Eva’s worldview is fundamentally challenged, particularly because she stands to nearly lose it all, and this takes her through some fascinating insights.
She learns what she’s been clinging to, for instance. This is highlighted through her relationship with her daughter’s friend Chloe (Tavi Gevinson), a needy young woman who seems to reflect Eva’s own sense of disconnection. It’s also reflected through Eva’s work, where scenes show her dragging her massage table up a set of stairs or dealing with particularly garrulous patrons.
Holofcener’s film is populated by some marvellous performers and they are all on-point. Gandolfini is clearly spectacular, a magnificent instance of how a skilled actor can bathe a character with warmth and mortality. There is no need for explosiveness. When he is hurt, the audience believes every word and every gesture.
Louis-Dreyfus is stellar. She is more than up to the task of leading a picture. She fleshes out Eva with several dimensions, conveying a ream of sensitive possibilities with the slightest of facial expressions or vocal inflections. It’s a delightful, subtle piece of work.
And Enough Said is a delightful motion picture. It fills a void in North America, a void sadly all too often filled with haggard features starring overgrown children attempting to navigating “adult” problems. In this film, the characters matter and their lives and loves count for more than just dippy punch-lines and trite finales.