Sunday, September 21, 2014

Nicole Holofcener's Enough Said: An Exceptional Romantic Drama

Romantic comedies have been around since the early days of movies, and when done right, they’re very enjoyable. There are many fine examples of that genre, from City Lights (1931) to Sleepless in Seattle (1993). But it’s much tougher to do justice to a realistic relationship story between two adults and still have it be entertaining. Writer-director Nicole Holofcener pulls it off in Enough Said, starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus and the late James Gandolfini. Eva (Louis-Dreyfus) is a divorcee who lives with her teenage daughter. She attends a friend’s party and meets Albert (Gandolfini) who is also divorced. Despite some misgivings on her part, they go on a date, and find they enjoy each other’s company. At the same time, Eva, who’s a masseuse, gains a new client (who she also met at the party) a poet named Marianne, played by Catherine Keener. Marianne is bitter about her own divorce, and as the two women become friends, she tells Eva about her awful ex-husband, who she cant stand. Marianne is irritated and angry about the end of that relationship, and it shows.

As the story goes on,  Eva realizes Albert is Marianne’s ex. She starts to doubt her own interest in him, and sees the things Marianne doesn’t like about him, rather than the things she appreciates about him. Should she dump Albert, who she’s growing to love, because she & Marianne are becoming friends, and she doesn’t want to make a mistake? And should she tell Albert that she knows Marianne? Meanwhile, Eva is also going through a tough time with her daughter, who’s going off to college. Eva is becoming closer to one of her daughter’s friends, and her daughter is angry about that relationship. And Albert & Marianne’s daughter, who is also heading to college, has some issues of her own.

While all of this may sound like you’ve seen it before, Holofcener’s incisive script makes it work. The dialogue is strong & there are some sharp observations about life, love & relationships. Louis-Dreyfus is perfect in her role, a strong yet insecure woman who can’t seem to do the right thing, but has her heart in the right place. You alternately root for her and want to give her a good talking to during the course of the story. Gandolfini is excellent in one of his final roles; Albert is a regular guy who comes out of a bad marriage, and just wants to find a partner he can enjoy being with, who loves him for himself. He has several standout scenes, including when he finds out Eva has been friends with Marianne behind his back. The hurt he shows on his face, with little dialogue, conveys all the betrayal he feels at that moment. There's also strong supporting work from Keener & Toni Collette, as a friend of Eva's.

There are no easy answers or Hollywood endings here, though the film does offer some hope before the fadeout. This is a story of real people with real issues, and there are both laughs & tears to be found in this entertaining film. Holofcener has also directed films such as Walking & Talking (1996) & Friends With Money (2006) and her movies often polarize critics & viewers (including myself), but she’s done some fine work here. I guess you can call this one a romantic dramedy. Enough Said is one of the best films of 2013, and it deservedly received a lot of critical acclaim. The movie is now available on DVD, Blu-ray and some streaming services. Here’s a link to the film’s trailer:

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