Niagara Gazette

September 24, 2013

CALLERI: Gandolfini's presence makes "Enough Said" something special

By Michael Calleri
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Nicole Holofcener’s name may not be recognizable to many moviegoers. It deserves to be.

She’s the writer-director of four relationship comedies, which showcase in strong and sincere ways how adults talk and interact with each other, whether they are friends, partners, or spouses. Her feature films are “Walking And Talking,” “Lovely And Amazing,” “Please Give,” and “Friends With Money.”

Holofcener makes movies about people who could really exist in your life. Her films are filled with honest emotions and reactions. She creates believable characters, especially women.

Like Woody Allen, Wes Anderson, and Hal Hartley, Holofcener is a personal filmmaker who cares about the audience and delivers comic pictures that are not about insult and invective.

“Enough Said” is Holofcener’s newest and finest work yet.

The movie focuses on Eva, a divorced masseuse played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Eva lives in a pleasant middle-class neighborhood in Los Angeles. She has an uncomplicated daughter named Ellen (Tracey Fairaway), who will soon be off to college. Her ex-husband has rebuilt his life. Ellen’s needy friend Chloe (Tavi Gevinson) prefers hanging out at Eva’s house. In fact, Chloe relates to Eva in a more pertinent way than to her own mother. She continually asks her for advice about life and love.

One evening, Eva meets a man named Albert at party, and he intrigues her. Will he be the one to snap her out of her romantic doldrums? The fellow’s the curator at a museum dedicated to vintage television shows. Albert is a nice guy, also divorced, and also with a daughter heading to college. There is one serious hurdle regarding Albert that bothers Eva. He’s overweight. Eva is slim and into healthy eating. Albert enjoys food and isn’t embarrassed by his size or appetite. He is who he is. He readily admits that his excessive weight played a role in his divorce.

Albert is played by the late James Gandolfini, whose performance is heartbreaking in the obvious way — his recent death stunned almost everyone — and whose performance is also heartbreaking because he’s so good an actor that you want Eva to stop questioning herself and enjoy Albert’s delightful charms and sweet innocence.

But Eva won’t trust her judgment. She and Albert are a well-matched couple who click right away, but she refuses to rely on that. The audience knows that Eva and Albert belong together. But Eva does not. She is so controlled by doubt, that on their very first date, a pleasant dinner, she half-jokingly asks Albert for his ex-wife's phone number to find out what led to their divorce. His response? That divorced people should wear signs around their necks detailing exactly what’s wrong with them. Eva, who can be quite funny, offers a reply that I won’t spoil by revealing it. Based on the dinner, you know that Albert is ready to connect and Eva will erect roadblocks.

Eva discusses Albert primarily with two people, her best friend Sarah (Toni Collette), whose marriage to Will (Ben Falcone) seems built on sarcasm, and her new friend Marianne (Catherine Keener), a successful, albeit cold and moody, poet with famous acquaintances who harbors resentments about a lot of things, including her former husband.

“Enough Said” is filled with dialogue exchanges that ring true and focus on the genuine complexities of relationships. Director Holofcener knows that flawed people make mistakes and will often lapse into stupidity when it comes to what the heart wants and what the head thinks. Intimacy creates conflict for some people.

Holofcener asks this question: What happens when the things you initially liked about a person become annoying, especially when they are colored by comments from others? To Eva, good-natured Albert is sexy and likable; perhaps a bit sloppy, and seemingly independent. We will discover that his ex-wife remembers him as a boring loser, utterly incapable of fending for himself, and an oaf in bed.

The acting in “Enough Said” is outstanding, including that of the key supporting players. Louis-Dreyfus gives her most accomplished performance in a movie. She clumsily undermines a promising relationship in such a balanced way, that you care about her, not dislike her.

The endearing Gandolfini is wonderful in the film. He’s so vital that you forget he’s no longer with us. You realize immediately that he would never have been an actor trapped by a single, celebrated role.

I asked noted Manhattan-based acting coach Tom Todoroff, who is from Buffalo and a good friend of mine, about Gandolfini. He told me that the loss of his talent is “devastating.” Tom said that Gandolfini was a “throwback hybrid of Rod Steiger, Ernest Borgnine, and Lee Marvin,” and that he was gifted with “transparency, and a profound childlike vulnerability.”

Gandolfini’s beautiful performance helps make “Enough Said” the best comedy of the year.

Michael Calleri reviews films for Night and Day. Contact him at moviecolumn@gmail.com.