Movie review: 'Enough Said' has real people in believable situations

For the News-DemocratSeptember 26, 2013 

What It's About

An instant classic, "Enough Said" is one of the best romantic comedies in years -- heartfelt, remarkably realistic and relatable.

There are so many "been there, done that, bought the T-shirt" moments for men and women of a certain age that the film establishes a strong connection with its audience from the get-go.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus is Eva, a mobile masseuse who is bracing herself for the departure of her daughter to college across the country. She meets Albert (James Gandolfini), but doesn't think he is exactly her type. After a dinner date, much to their mutual surprise, they enjoy each other's company and have an easy chemistry together. He also has a daughter heading east, and they both were in marriages that didn't work.

Coincidentally, her latest client just happens to be Albert's ex-wife, poet Marianne (Catherine Keener), a malcontent with a beautiful lifestyle who is vocal in constantly criticizing her former husband. When Eva finds out, she doesn't know what to do, but all this weighted information begins to take its toll on their relationship.

Performances

Showing a sweet, cuddly side to his gruff, imposing persona, James Gandolfini is a revelation here. Because he will no longer have an opportunity to branch out, there is an obvious sadness watching him bloom in an atypical role. With dry wit and charm, Gandolfini crafts sensitive slob Albert into someone we care about -- and can feel his hurt over rejections.

His stylish but shallow wife didn't get him, but Eva, though a tad flippant when she's cracking wise, does (until she starts doubting her instincts).

Still working on TV sitcoms, Julia Louis-Dreyfus remains a gifted and versatile comic actress, with impeccable timing. This movie allows her an opportunity to express feelings, and she channels more-than-a-few middle-age moms.

As the daughters Ellen and Tess, Tracy Fairaway and Eve Hewson (Bono of U2's daughter) are believable as teens about to depart the nest, with parents fretting over it.

Toni Collette and Ben Falcone resonate as the couple who are Eva's friends, providing the Greek chorus to the conflicts.

What Works

Writer-director Nicole Holofcenter ("Friends With Money") has mined the small moments to create a thoroughly engaging, sympathetic take on sustaining relationships in life. Her observations repeatedly hit the bull's-eye.

Her sharp observations are conveyed by a pitch-perfect cast, and therefore, we feel we know these people -- some of them could be our friends and neighbors, or even ourselves.

While so much of the dialogue is funny, the humor often is tinged with emotion. In saying goodbye to children -- being proud of their ability to fly, but sad at the loss of everyday companionship, I know I wasn't the only one tearing up. And in allowing yourself to be vulnerable to fall in love again, understanding how elusive and fragile it can be, that hit close to home for all.

The film offers us real people in believable situations -- despite the premise sounding far-fetched. The point is that flawed people make mistakes, and learn from experience, and the film conveys this beautifully.

What Doesn't Work

A small subplot involving a maid was not necessary to the plot, but did show how exasperating such decisions are for a higher-economic class. To some, the comfortable-casual California lifestyle for people of a certain means might be a sticking point, but this is a very nit-picky thing. Who woudn't want to have gorgeous views, let along hang poolside with people who know Joni Mitchell.

4 out of 4 stars

Director: Nicole Holofcener

Starring: James Gandolfini, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Catherine Keener, Toni Collette, Ben Falcone,

Rated: PG-13 for crude and sexual content, comic violence, language and partial nudity

Length: 1:33

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