There aren’t a lot of things that I regret not writing about on this blog, because come on, we already write about enough stuff that no one cares about. However, there is one post I do wish I had written when it was relevant, and that’s that I wish I had written an R.I.P. for the great James Gandolfini when he passed away last June. And yes, I do have an excuse, which is that I was driving from Seattle to Northern California literally the entire day that it happened, but still, I wish I’d put aside some time to reflect on the man’s passing. Because oddly enough, he died when I was right in the middle of re-watching all of The Sopranos. And I don’t want to get too bogged down with this, but I’ll just say that there’s still no doubt in my mind that Gandolfini’s work on The Sopranos is the defining performance in the history of television, and deserves to be marveled at for decades to come. So with that long-winded bit of preamble out of the way, I guess I should talk about the breezy little film that bears Gandolfini’s second-to-last performance.
Enough Said centers on Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), a middle-aged mausseuse who finds herself at a dinner party one night, and happens to stumble in to two chance encounters. One is with Marianne (Catherine Keener), a fellow divorcee who takes up Eva’s offer to be her masseuse, which eventually leads to the two of them becoming close friends. The other chance encounter happens between her and Albert (Gandolfini), which leads to an unconventional romance that eventually starts to bloom between the two of them. However, Albert and Eva’s relationship is tested once Eva finds out that Marianne’s husband whom she’s been bitching about constantly turns out to be (wuh-oh) Albert, and Eva begins doubting everything she’s ever liked about him.
Now I would completely understand if you rolled your eyes at that last plot development, because it does seem a little hokey compared to everything else going on in this film. However, I think if you’re willing to forgive this sitcom-y plot devise, there’s still plenty to enjoy about Enough Said. Which I realize seems kind of weird to say “Oh yeah, if you just ignore the entire premise of the film, you’ll be good to go.” But honestly, how often do you go to see a small-scale character driven indie because of the plot?
From having seen this film along with 2009’s Please Give, I can say that writer/director Nicole Holofcener has a pretty keen ear for dialogue that mixes comedy with some of the more tragic aspects of modern life. And though the film often embodies the nobility of trudging through middle age, it’s nice to see a film that authentically captures what it is to fall in love while approaching your latter years, and do it with a nice whiff of optimism. Because God knows the other two movies I saw this year that tackled this subject (Before Midnight, Blue Jasmine), did it in a fairly depressing manner. And even though the film does end on a fairly ambiguous note, Gandolfini and Louis-Dreyfus make for the kind of wise-cracking couple you can realistically believe in.
I’ll admit that there are a few scenes that fall a little flat towards the second half of the film once the more farcical aspects of the plot start to rear their head. However, the performances always keep the movie grounded, as Julia Louis-Dreyfus does a superb job of handling the comedic and dramatic sides of her character in what is surprisingly the first time she’s shown up in a movie since 1997’s Deconstructing Harry. Keener’s character is maybe a bit underwritten, but she does her best with it, and Toni Collette and Ben Falcone are very funny as Eva’s quibbling married friends. And then there’s James Gandolfini, who radiates the kind of warmth and understated comedic chops that we only occasionally got to see all those years he was on TV. I just wish we could’ve seen a little bit more of the man’s impressive depth as an actor on the silver screen.
Also, this is completely innocuous, but Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s character’s ex-husband is played by Toby Huss. So if you’re a Seinfeld fan, I guess you could imagine this movie as being some sort of alternate universe in which Elaine Benes ends up marrying The Wiz.