“Enough Said” will be fondly remembered as the late James Gandolfini’s final film, not to mention the one that most accurately depicted his real-life gentle giant nature. But it also marks the first starring/dramatic film role for TV comedy queen Julia Louis-Dreyfus (The New Adventures of Old Christine, HBO’s Veep), who (a few too many face-crinkling tics aside) proves herself capable of carrying a film. And it’s a significant step forward for writer/director Nicole Holofcener whose last film, “Please Give,” ably skewered certain upper-class liberal pieties but never seemed rooted in reality.
“Enough Said” continues Holofcener’s knack for sympathizing with the woes of the privileged, afflictions that most of us would sneer at (fretting over, say, how to rearrange your luxurious furniture, or fire your maid). But this time she imbues her characters with tremendous dignity and compassion. They may act in ways we never would, such as squabbling about their most personal marital problems at a formal dinner party, but their mistakes are redeemable; unlike in “Please Give,” their outbursts never seem fake or acerbic purely for the sake of shock value.
“Enough Said” takes awhile to get started. Holofcener gives the audience ample time to adapt to the sight of the normally air-brushed Dreyfus, Toni Collette and Catherine Keener in full-on saggy, wrinkly, unkempt early-fifties glory. To be sure, they are well-heeled Southern Californians, cranky and self-absorbed, but they make fun of their aging; they’re becoming inured to their graying hair and purplish feet.
That’s why bored, single masseuse Eva (Dreyfus), ten years divorced and struggling with her daughter’s approaching college matriculation, falls for the overweight, bearded, self-effacing Albert (James Gandolfini), whom she meets at a snooty party. Albert is also a bitter divorcee with a college-bound daughter, but really, these two mesh because of their mutual talent for spur-of-the-moment nitpicking (not just at each other but at themselves). She mocks his too-revealing pajamas, he makes light of her varicose veins, and each of them agrees with the other’s gentle needling.
The central conflict doesn’t kick in for about forty-five minutes, but it’s a doozy. Eva discovers that her new friend and client Marianne (Keener), an acid-tongued poet who frequently spews about her fat ex-husband, has actually been spewing about Albert. Overnight, Albert’s habits, which once seemed endearingly neurotic (he separates out the onions in his guacamole, and hoards mouthwash bottles) begin to repel her. At that point, “Enough Said” registers like a painfully fleshed-out “Seinfeld” episode. In a half-hour format, Dreyfus’ supercilious Elaine could get away with abruptly spurning a boyfriend because of bad advice from her friends, but in real life, of course, there are consequences to such behavior.
Because of Holofcener’s deft timing, we laugh at both Dreyfus and Gandolfini when their cozy relationship starts to sour. We understand why a slobbish and overweight—albeit lovable—partner would grate on the nerves, but we also fully relate to that partner’s bewilderment at the other’s sudden pettiness.
“Enough Said” also delves intelligently into a trend rarely seen in film: a sensitive man paired with a somewhat crass woman. But it never cheapens Dreyfus’ character, never turns her into a harpie or villain, nor does Gandolfini’s become a speechifying scold. These are mellow, funny people unafraid to show their feelings, and we never want to leave their company, even when they sink low.
But what really makes “Enough Said” such a triumph is Holofcener’s shrewdness at mirroring the speech patterns and mannerisms of this particular milieu. When Keener signs her autograph for two fawning fans, her farewell to them is a curt “OK, blessings!” When Dreyfus arrives at Gandolfini’s house for a casual brunch, her face melts in horror at the sight of his wife-beater and sweatpants. “Did I get the wrong day?” she blurts out. It’s faux-pas like these, that you both gasp and laugh at, that are Holofcener’s stock-in-trade.
Actor James Gandolfini passed away last June after suffering a massive heart attack. He was 51.