How fitting that one of James Gandolfini's last roles be such a tribute to his acting talent. Writer/director Nicole Holofcener cast Gandolfini against type as the romantic lead in her engaging, funny story about two divorced single parents, Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and Albert (Gandolfini) trying to find love and companionship the second time around.
Eva, a masseuse with a menagerie of clients, tags along with her best friend Sarah (Toni Collette) and her husband Will (Ben Falcone) to a party where she meets Marianne (Catehrine Keener), a poet and a potential new client. Eva also meets Albert, after expressing a lack of interest in any males at the party. Buts she learns that Albert and she are in the same boat --- they each are divorced with the impending departure of a daughter to college.
Something clicks for Albert, and despite Eva's expressed lack of interest, he invites her to dinner. The scene is wonderfully written and played out, with Eva and Albert feeling each other out via playful banter. All goes well, and a relationship begins for these two reluctant participants.
Meanwhile, Marianne, who also has a daughter going off to college, becomes a regular client of Eva's. She is also divorced and constantly complaining about her ex-husband. Eva is sympathetic because, she too, is not fond of her ex. But as her friendship with Marianne deepens and her relationship with Albert grows more serious, she realizes that Albert is Marianne's ex-husband.
Holofcener is a master at writing contemporary fare. Her dialogue is reality driven, as evidenced by the intimate moments shared by Eva and Albert as they are getting to know one another. And particularly the mother/daughter scenes that Eva and Ellen (Tracey Fairaway) share. When Eva's giving Ellen the third degree about her food choices the previous day --- or when they are saying goodbye at the airport --- those are all very real snippets between mothers and their female offspring. And Holofcener hits every note just right.
But it isn't just the writing that makes "Enough Said" so compelling and funny. The performances by Louis-Dreyfus, Gandolfini and Keener (who has been in Holofcener's four previous films) are what brings this movie to life. Let's face it --- Gandolfini is not exactly a matinee idol candidate for a lead romantic role. Holofcener liked that about him and thought he would be perfect with Louis-Dreyfus, and he is. They make a terrific real-life couple, with Louis-Dreyfus channeling Elaine Benes, from "Seinfeld", all the way. She's charming, delightful and totally reticent as Eva about getting involved in a relationship again.
Keener's Marianne is a bohemian narcissist, who has raised her daughter, Tess (Eve Henson, Bono's daughter in real life) to be exactly like her. Tess' soliloquy on the downfall of SarahLawrenceCollege (where Ellen is going) is evidence of her arrogance, albeit pretty funny --- and bratty. Everyone in this cast shines.
While David isn't as crazy about "Enough Said" as I (what does he know?), that doesn't matter. Holofcener has crafted an enjoyable romantic comedy --- and provided a lasting vehicle for the many talents of dearly departed James Gandolfini --- he will be missed!
Opinion: See It Now!
Stating the obvious, James Gandolfini will always be remembered for his classic portrayal of crime boss Tony Soprano, but the late actor's final screen appearance is proof of his versatility in front of the camera. (note: a movie called "Animal Rescue", starring Gandolfini, is in post-production and is yet to be released).
Writer/director Nicole Holofcener cast Gandolfini opposite Julia Louis-Dreyfus as two divorced parents looking for the right companion. When Albert (Gandolfini) and Eva (Louis-Dreyfus) meet at a party, they each declare that no one in attendance is attractive enough for either of them, including each other. Guess what? They're lying.
Albert and Eva each have a daughter about to enter college, so their respective nests are about to be empty. Albert is amiable enough, but Eva has concerns about his weight. among other things. Albert seems interested in Eva without any reservations. Of course, they eventually have a successful first date. They chat easily over dinner and wine, and although Albert tries to kiss Eva goodnight, she's not quite ready. Instead, they make a joke of it.
"Enough Said" is billed as a comedy, and it is quite amusing, but also has its poignant moments. The film marks the fifth collaboration between Holofcener and Catherine Keener, playing another divorcee, Marianne, who becomes friends with Eva after first being one of Eva's massage clients.
Holofcener has built a career writing and directing slice-of-life films featuring strong women, but women who are also vulnerable. Under her direction, Louis-Dreyfus' comedic style is akin to her recurring role of Elaine on "Seinfeld", self-effacing and funny, yet sometimes abrasive. But her Eva is also soft-hearted, tender and very likeable. It's Louis-Dreyfus' best overall performance that combines comedy and pathos.
Gandolfini couldn't be more opposite from Tony Soprano, although occasionally he did display a soft side. Here he's a gentle giant with a big heart, and when Eva picks on him at a dinner party ("I'm going to buy you a calorie counter", she says), the big guy is hurt, not amused. Albert can be sarcastic, as he delivers the movie's funniest line when his teenage daughter exclaims she hates kids. Albert, not missing a beat, says "And we have a lot in common right now". It's a terrific performance by Gandolfini, one that should be well received by audiences.
Eva's best friend is played by Toni Collette in an understated role, while the two daughters are Eve Hewson (Albert's Tess) and Tracey Fairaway (Eva's Ellen). Tavi Gevinson plays Ellen's best friend Chloe, and she is a scene stealer when on screen.
"Enough Said" features good performances, realistic writing and doesn't wear out its welcome at a brisk 93 minutes. And the closing credits include the briefest of tributes to Gandolfini --- "To Jim".
Opinion: See It Now!