Friday, October 11, 2013
Enough Said Movie Review
I didn’t see any eulogies for James Gandolfini earlier this year that didn’t talk about how surprisingly good an actor he was and capable of real heart in spite of his tough-guy persona and sometime typecasting. Prior to “The Sopranos” he mostly portrayed heavies and after that he became indelibly linked to the role of Tony. But for a taste of just how incredible he could be even if you strip away the rough veneer and harsh language, take a look at the romantic comedy Enough Said, where he and co-star Julia Louis-Dreyfus are divorcees who start dating one another.
Writer-director Nicole Holofcener has a wonderful knack for female characters who live and behave as real people and not like movie people. Lovely and Amazing was a welcome and refreshing portrait of three women struggling with things like romantic and familial relationships, body image, and children. Louis-Dreyfus plays Eva, a massage therapist and mother of a teenage daughter about to head off to an East Coast college. She’s suffering a little pre-empty nest syndrome, a feeling she placates by getting involved with Albert (Gandolfini) and playing surrogate mother (unintentionally) to her daughter’s friend, who begins to spend a disturbingly creepy amount of time at Eva’s house.
After a charming sort of meet-cute at a party, Eva and Albert have one of cinema’s all-time great first dates. They laugh at each other’s jokes, say the right things, enjoy each other’s company and it’s all incredibly unforced – the result of marvelous acting an relaxed direction. Eva and Albert develop a lovely romance, they spend a lot of time together, they meet each other’s daughters and all the time Eva has been developing a friendship with a client (Catherine Keener) who is in a position to unwittingly reveal too much information about Albert. Because Eva is human, she is flawed, and she fails to tell either Albert or her friend the truth. Instead she very foolishly allows poison to seep into the relationship.
Holofcener is such a good writer that this transgression becomes touching and sort of heart-breaking in its consequences. Compare this to how some rom-com starring Kate Hudson or Jennifer Lopez would have treated the same material. You can imagine lots of hysterics, plenty of female shrieking, probably even some resolution that involves an apology from the man. But Eva remains grounded and human. She even shakes off the hallmarks of Elaine, the character she portrayed through nine seasons of “Seinfeld.”
As a storyteller, Holofcener is showing us something about what it means to be with someone long term. To be married means learning to live with all those idiosyncrasies a person has and fighting against the urge to be turned off by them. Robin Williams has a great speech about this in Good Will Hunting and here is the representation of what happens when it goes sour. Eva and Albert both came out of failed marriages each of which started lovingly and with the best intentions, as any marriage does. But then you rift and allow yourself to be irked by small details. Eva allows the early knowledge of Albert’s habits to turn her against him and mistreat him. She’s also not aided by having a best friend (Toni Collette), whose marriage is full of barely concealed animosity and resentment. When children are in the picture your lives are forever yoked to one another. And Holofcener very wisely includes two key scenes involving Eva and her ex, the second of which is truly the emotional climax of the film as they see their daughter off to college and these two people whose marriage failed nevertheless have arrived at this moment together by virtue of the fact that they raised that little girl.
Then through it all she gives us the rock solid performance of Gandolfini. He is the center of this movie, the glue holding it together. He is a big lug, kind of goofy, not entirely attractive, and certainly overweight, yet he is tender, sweet, and good-natured. Albert doesn’t make a single misstep in the movie. That’s what makes it so difficult when we see the effect of what Eva did. It’s a shame Gandolfini didn’t live long enough to hear the praise he deserves for Enough Said. This should be noted not as a footnote to a truncated career, but as an emblem of what he was capable of achieving.