Dir/scr: Nicole Holofcener. US. 2013. 91mins
Nicole Holofcener remains a perceptive chronicler of messy modern relationships in Enough Said, a wry ensemble comedy that takes a generous view of the failings and foibles of its characters. Mature, middle-class viewers will easily recognise their own lives and anxieties in a film that should delight the same audiences that have enjoyed previous Holofcener films like Friends With Money and Please Give without significantly adding to their numbers. A warmly endearing performance from the late James Gandolfini can only increase the attention paid to the film.
The film’s best performance comes from Gandolfini in a rare romantic role. He is sweet and lovable as Albert, playing with a gentle comic touch and investing the character with a surprising degree of vulnerability.
The middle-aged characters in Enough Said are older but not necessarily wiser as they warily approach fresh relationships burdened with the baggage of past defeats. Plucky massage therapist Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is a divorced single mother dreading the moment her teenage daughter leaves home for college. At a party, she makes a friend in fellow divorcee and poet Marianne (Catherine Keener).
She is also attracted to Albert (Gandolfini), an affable bear of a man who is equally anxious about his daughter’s departure. The friendship with Marianne blossoms at the same time as the relationship with Albert grows more substantial. Problems arise when Eva realises that Albert is the ex-husband whose many failings Marianne shares in such pitiless detail.
In Marianne’s eyes, he was an obnoxious slob of a man who could do nothing right whether it was making love or eating guacamole. Marianne’s bitter memories threaten to poison any chance Eva and Albert have of nurturing their love.
Holofcener is good at teasing out all the qualms and concerns of characters daring to take a second chance on love. She writes dialogue that is smart and funny, bringing characters and relationships to life with a warmth and spontaneity that feels true to everyone’s experiences.
The tangled involvement of Eva, Albert and Marianne is the stuff of farce but is played as much for the pain it causes as the laughter it might provoke. It always seems fairly evident where the film is headed and there is a sense that it begins to run out of steam in the final third but audiences will happily stay the course because of the emotional investment they have been encouraged to make in the fate of the central duo. A trim running time also works in the film’s favour.
Holofcener is well served by a cast that includes Toni Collette as Eva’s best friend Sarah, a woman acutely aware of the disappointment she feels with her own husband but equally able to acknowledge that life is built on compromise.
Catherine Keener feels slightly underused as the embittered, otherworldly Marianne and the film’s best performance comes from Gandolfini in a rare romantic role. He is sweet and lovable as Albert, playing with a gentle comic touch and investing the character with a surprising degree of vulnerability. He makes the most of one of the best cinema roles he found in the afterglow of The Sopranos.
Production company: Likely Story
US distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures
Producer: Anthony Bregman
Cinematography: Xavier Grobet
Editor: Robert Frazen
Production designer: Keith Cunningham
Music: Marcelo Zarvos
Main cast: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, James Gandolfini, Catherine Keener, Toni Collette, Tavi Gevinson