Film review: Enough Said

by **

Dear Dad

The defiant tone of the title hints at the film’s denouement. Enough Said is a sweet, heartwarming, romantic comedy that explores what it is like to fall in love at middle-age.

While it examines the dilemma between self-preservation and full devotion, and emphasises the need to accept people for who they are, the cardinal message centres on taking charge of one’s own life, rather than succumbing to circumstances.

In brisk summary, the narrative appears like the archetypal love story that follows the protagonists as they find passion again in their later life. But writer, Nicole Holofcener, distinguishes her work by peopling it with characters who find humour and maturity instead of resurrected teenage awkwardness in their new-found frisson, albeit with understandably more than a dollop of uncertainty and fear and reservation.

Directed with becoming subtlety by Holofcener herself, the show also benefits enormously from performances of limpid honesty by two acting veterans.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays Eva, a professional masseuse and divorced mum, grappling with the looming departure of her daughter to college.

She meets (the late) James Gandolfini’s Albert at a party, where they discover a connection — not least that he too is divorced and dreading his own daughter’s time to leave home for studies — and soon a budding romance begins to flower.

Meanwhile, Eva has taken on a new client, Marianne (Catherine Keener), a published poetess whom she’d met at that same party. As a friendship develops between the two women, Marianne starts to kvetch (too much) about her former husband, leaving Eva to question her own relationship with Albert.

Holding Marianne in high esteem, Eva finds the same faults with Albert as her glamorous client does with her ex-spouse: she disdains how he picks onions from his guacamole, how he cheats on his diet, how he never bothers with night-side tables. Never mind that if these were sins, they’re hardly heinous.

As she confides in her close friend, Sarah (fantastic Toni Collette), about the reticence resulting from what her “human Trip Advisor” has to say about an involvement she is on the brink of entering, the audience is let into Sarah’s own family environment where we see how often some people seek to perfect an already-perfect situation, driving unwarranted cracks through the familial fabric in the process.

Holofcener is adroit in layering vignette upon vignette to consolidate her point. As Ellen (Tracey Fairaway) strives to wean herself from Eva’s maternal intimacy before leaving home, Eva allows Ellen’s best friend, Chloe (Tavi Gevinson), who sees her as something of a surrogate parent to inch closer. Ellen ends up feeling displaced and hurt, before Eva becomes accused of robbing her daughter by Chloe’s mother.

“I tried to be separate,” Ellen says between sobs. “But I am lonely and anxious.”

More astounding, though, is the writer’s skill in tracing Eva’s gradual advance towards putting things in perspective. At Ellen’s farewell dinner, Eva recoils at the idea of her ex-husband divulging all her foibles to his now-wife, tasting perhaps Albert’s experience on the same side of the emotional spectrum.

What keeps the movie buoyant, however, is indubitably the two central cast.

Louis-Dreyfus is exceptional in carrying the picture precisely because she does not push to do so. Like an artist, she deftly uses a blend of colours from her palette of expressions to depict self-reproach in her callous hurting of the man she loves, churning of feelings at the airport departure gates, and the sense of empowerment when she decides to take control of her life.

And, needless to say, Gandolfini is equally fine. One of his last performances before his passing, this is a fitting motion picture to remember him by, if nothing else — and there is plenty that is memorable — because he’s widely known to closely resemble his character here: a gentle giant who wears jocularity, tenderness, dignity, and quiet pride beneath his hefty surface.

Towards the end of the 93-minute production, Sarah’s final recognition of the virtues of her Hispanic domestic help who is wont to inexplicable housekeeping behaviour works to complete the theme that one should embrace others for whom they are, meet each other half-way, and most significantly get a grip on their lives.

Enough Said, a superbly crafted work that touches on relationships in a most sensitive, nuanced, way, will no doubt stand the test of time.