James Gandolfini's penultimate performance is a doozy as he plays opposite a never-better Julia Louis-Dreyfus in this doleful romantic farce.
Some films are a cold shower, others a warm bath. Enough Said is mainly a warm bath but bracing morality gives the romantic comedy an anchor in common relationship reality. This is not a world where a Hollywood princess will be forgiven all of her ills with the flash of a brilliant smile or wits, it's a world where actions have consequences and consequences have weight. In other words, Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), whose perspective this story is told from, has a free rein to fuck things up.
Curiosity and deception are the emotional crutches powering said fuck-upery. One night Eva, a masseuse and single mother, goes to a party in the picture perfect suburban neighbourhood where she lives. She meets a new friend (Marianne, a poet, subtly mocked via Catherine Keener's witty performance) and a new man, Albert (the late James Gandolfini), and once some initial resistance has gently played out, falls into a routine of seeing them both. Then along comes a twist that allows Eva an intriguing but unfair window into her new man's life. It's a contrived set-up, but comfortable with it, and allows for this thoughtful dilemma: can you always look out for number one without coming off as a dick?
All of this makes Enough Said sound way more heavy than it is. Thoughtful philosophy loops quietly beneath an extremely cheerful performance from Louis-Dreyfus. The joy she takes from life is constant, whether it's getting to know the gentle Albert, drinking and blurting stuff out or pulling off coitus interruptus by energetically inviting the interuptee, her daughter's friend, to breakfast.
Writer and director Nicole Holofcener (Please Give) has placed Eva and, in fact, all of her characters in a natural environment, free of melodrama or menace. Their appreciation for the fruits of a lucky life is refreshing. Food and eating is a leit motif, as are the massages Eva dishes out. Walks, talks and everyday dorks are what makes up this film world.
Nestling in this naturalism is James Gandolfini, always finding a dignified way to express the hurt that mounts up as Eva disappears down the rabbit hole of her duel existence. The prophetic irony of comic digs at his ailing health give a harsh sting to the material, yet it feels right that his penultimate outing involved presenting his vulnerable, soft side. Albert is the dupe, the character in the dark, but he is never the fool. His ignorance is mortal and normal, making him more relatable than Eva with her atypical omniscience. His wholehearted perspective is the one that lingers on.
Read our interview with director Nicole Holofcener.
Looks suspiciously chirrupy but the cast is a draw.
Funny, sweet and boasting a backbone.
Gandolfini's performance would have stood out in any event, as the rest falls away.