REVIEW: Enough Said [2013]

Score: 8/10 | ★ ★ ★


Rating: PG-13 | Runtime: 93 minutes | Release Date: September 18th, 2013 (USA)
Studio: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Director(s): Nicole Holofcener
Writer(s): Nicole Holofcener

“I like your paddles”

While many are quick to label it as James Gandolfini‘s final cinematic role, Nicole Holofcener‘s Enough Said shouldn’t be dismissed as mere eulogy. The writer/director’s first foray into the studio world—albeit with indie shingle Fox Searchlight—it retains the voice and sensibility her fans have enjoyed over the past two decades regardless of any compromises she may have needed to acquiesce. A tale of middle-age and the struggles it brings to married couples, divorced bachelorettes, fathers of college-aged daughters, and career-minded sophisticates, perception becomes a driving force towards its expression of innermost desires and fears of abandonment within selfish pursuits of the heart. We can pretend there’s empathy behind our actions to say we’re helping those we’re using to help ourselves, but it’s only a justification for doing whatever’s necessary to escape the loneliness we face.

This is the situation Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) finds herself in at the start of the film as a divorced mother about to be completely alone once her daughter Ellen (Tracey Fairaway) leaves for school. A masseuse with an eclectic clientele consisting of a heavy breather with bad breath, an unperceptive yuppie, and a loquaciously vapid housewife, the prospect of attending a party with best friend Sarah (Toni Collette) and her husband Will (Ben Falcone) is simultaneously a welcome reprieve from the monotony and utterly abhorrent insofar as having to mingle with a bunch of men she knows she’ll find less than attractive. But despite her reservations and penchant for thickly laying on the sarcasm, Eva leaves the soiree with two people interested in her number—one for a massage and the other a date.

Unbeknownst to her, however, is that while she becomes a close confidant to Marianne (Catherine Keener) during their sessions together and even closer to Albert (Gandolfini) over dinner and brunch, each has been venting complaints about the other. Yes, Eva’s new client/friend is the ex-wife of her new beau—a realization that can’t help but instill an awkward “behind the curtain” familiarity while also proving to perhaps be a divorcee’s dream. If she can carefully mine Marianne’s past to discover the horrible idiosyncrasies Albert may possess before facing them all herself, it would be like getting a CARFAX Report during a test drive to help make an educated decision on her current courtship. Sadly, no matter how much we’d like to think love and romance are quantifiable, they most certainly are not.

It’s in this truth that we know Marianne and Albert will eventually discover Eva has been less than forthcoming, so the fun becomes the sort of situations she’ll find herself in knowing what she shouldn’t know. We watch as a sweetly unfolding relationship between two adults in similar circumstances becomes mired in one woman’s perception that should have no bearing on the union whatsoever. Marianne and Eva are nothing alike and while the latter may find the former alluring in her bohemian-chic poet lifestyle with famous friends named dropped as though it’s no big deal, it’s all smoke and mirrors. In fact, everything Eva kind of despises about Marianne’s daughter Tess (Eve Hewson) after meeting her for lunch with Albert can be quite obviously attributed to her mother’s influence and not his.

But she’s a goldmine of information, a paying customer, and someone to vicariously live a life of lavishness she never could or wanted. It’s the first identity crisis we see crop up, one giving Eva something to aspire toward once her slate is wiped clean after Ellen’s departure. In fact, she even non-maliciously starts to take in her daughter’s friend Chloe (Tavi Gevinson) as a surrogate, latching onto the girl’s need for maternal advice and attention her own mother is too selfish to provide. Add Sarah’s fantasies about a second husband while her current one listens, Eva’s ex’s new wife being everything he needed that she couldn’t provide, and Ellen striving to pre-emptively detach from the family she’s leaving behind and you have myriad examples of people adrift and desperately trying to hold on.

The only one comfortable with his lot is Albert. He’s accepted his shortcomings with a modest humility that makes them seem unimportant despite Marianne’s judgmental stories slowly creeping into Eva’s consciousness. He loves his job, knows his daughter is a good egg despite surface appearances, and truly is smitten with this woman he’s met and let into his heart. Our adoration for his relatable, fault-ridden character actually has us torn on what Eva is doing because while we want her to be what he thinks she is, we still also want the hearty laughs of their inevitably tragic situation to continue. This is why the fall-out proves to be such a gut-punch of emotion—we know they belong together and yet aren’t sure if they’ll get out of their own way to prove it.

To Holofcener’s credit, Enough Said drips with authenticity. There are still jokes for comedy sake with Sarah and Will’s embellished marital issues and their maid’s proclivity to put out-of-place objects inside kitchen drawers, but they only help temper the weightiness of Eva’s actions. Louis-Dreyfus is superb balancing her fears and uncontrollable urge to alleviate them without fully realizing the consequences. She is cutely awkward and loving with both Gandolfini and Fairaway, sharing a purity of self that provides a heavy sense of guilt when she leads them astray. Gandolfini puts on an acting clinic of nuance with his bashful anxiousness, unbridled joy when speaking about the simpler things, and disappointment in both he and Eva once the truth reveals itself. He definitely left us too soon, but he did so on a high-note with skill, compassion, and heart.


photography:
[1] James Gandolfini as “Albert” and Julia Louis-Dreyfus as “Eva” in ENOUGH SAID.
[2] Toni Collette as “Sarah” and Ben Falcone as “Will” in ENOUGH SAID.
[3] Catherine Keener as “Marianne” in ENOUGH SAID.

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