'Enough Said': Gandolfini's swansong is a true treat
By Kate Erbland, Special to MSN Movies
Romantic comedies have long found the bulk of their humor in misunderstandings, silly twists, and wacky interpersonal connections, and while Nicole Holofcener's "Enough Said" has plenty of all three elements to go around, the very adult (as in mature) rom-com is elevated by generous doses of charm, a very strong script, and two stellar leading performances. Set in the well-to-do Westside of Los Angeles (much like Holofcener's previous film, "Friends With Money," which features one of Jennifer Aniston's best performances), "Enough Said" centers on an unexpected romantic complication that slowly consumes the life of Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), a divorced masseuse already grappling with the imminent departure of her college-aged daughter.
Holofcener has a strong ear for dialogue, and "Enough Said" comes out blazing with crisp, crackling, and very real-sounding communications between its characters. Eva has already proven her inability to filter most of her thoughts (though she's never cruel, she's just a bit silly) by the time she hits a party with her married friends Sarah (Toni Collette, doing great supporting work here) and Will (Ben Falcone, exhibiting great comedic timing along with Collette), so when she makes the acquaintance of a potential new client (Catherine Keener) and a potential new paramour (James Gandolofini), there's plenty of joy to be found in her slightly mortifying chatter. But both Marianne (Keener) and Albert (Gandolfini) take to Eva, and she's soon got a new client and pal in the earthy poetess and a possible new boyfriend in the sweetheart of a man.
Of course, there is a complication. It becomes steadily apparent to both Eva and the audience that Marianne and Albert have a previous connection -- they were once married, and the bad-in-bed slob Marianne has been venting to Eva about is the same man she's falling for. Marianne's perception of Albert soon starts to inform Eva's experience of him, and by the time Albert comments that her steadily worse behavior reminds him of being with his wife, it seems like their romance might be as dead as his previous marriage. But while the film rings emotionally true, it still maintains its humor throughout, and "Enough Said" is a joy to watch, even in its most uncomfortable moments.
It's no surprise that the Emmy-winning Louis-Dreyfus is deeply funny as Eva, giving a performance that relies not just on drily amusing lines, but also perfect delivery (no one else could make a statement like "I love bread" quite as funny as Louis-Dreyfus does), extremely well-timed facial reactions, and a lingering sweetness to make it tick. The role is a uncharacteristically light one for Gandolfini, and while his performance neatly conveys the charm of the unlikely rom-com leading man, the actor's recent and untimely death infuse it with an unshakable heaviness. Even as Gandolfini's work is deeply enjoyable, it comes with a bit of a warning -- enjoy it now, they'll never be another one like this. Holofcener's talents are not confided to just writing relatable adult characters, as "Enough Said" is also populated with three teenage girls who all ring indelibly true. If the filmmaker wanted to try her hand at a teen-centric comedy next, it would be a good move for both her and her audience.
"Enough Said" is a truly adult romantic comedy, warts and all, a very entertaining, funny, and sweet outing that crackles with witty dialogue and warm performances -- a true treat before the heavy hitters of awards season start flooding theaters.
Kate Erbland is a contributing writer for MSN Movies, a critic for Boxoffice Magazine, and an Associate Editor for Film School Rejects. She has been writing about movies since 2008, but has been thinking about movies for far longer. She lives in New York City.