Comparing films remains a dangerous occupation, but those who are fortunate enough to see this quietly observant story about middle aged romance after watching Short Term 12 and August: Osage County will have the chance to contrast the impressive dialogue in those 2 movies with the give and take in this one, which combines great dialogue with genuine character study. It simply isn’t enough to put words in the mouths of actors that sound attuned to the parts they’re playing - - 1st rate films also allow an audience to encounter realistic characters who mean something.
Writer/director Nicloe Holofcener (Please Give, Lovely & Amazing, Friends with Money) has been delivering that type of movie for nearly 20 years, capturing the aspirations, foibles and moments of discovery in a milieu ripe for examination- upper class, middle-aged urban American women. Working with a cadre of skilled actresses, (Francis McDormand, Brenda Blethyn, Toni Collette and especially Catherine Keener) while resisting the temptation to elongate her storylines beyond the amount of screen time necessary to unfold them, Holofcener can arguably stand along side Woody Allen in the pantheon of contemporary American filmmakers. But unlike Allen, she’s getting better with age…</p>
Enough Said traces the establishment of an oh-so tentative relationship between Eva, (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) a massage therapist and Albert, (James Gandolfini) a television programming archivist. Both are divorced and each has a daughter about to leave home for the freshman year in college, an event that’s brought no small amount of introspection and angst into their lives. These two amusingly wary people meet each other at a party and begin the mating dance of the once-burned and twice shy; since both enjoy a deliciously subversive sense of humor they’re drawn towards each other with the cautious but hopeful manner of a puppy nuzzling a porcupine.
In the course of their sort-of courtship, Holofcener examines parent/daughter relationships, interactions with Eva’s best friend and her husband and finally with a poetess whose ability to leverage the plot in delightfully unexpected ways constitutes one of the most intriguing elements in the storyline. When Eva begins to see Albert through the eyes of others instead of her own, the director fashions a denouement that neatly balances a desire for happy endings with the insight that relationships can deepen without necessarily sustaining the thrill of early enthusiasm.
As Eva, Dreyfus tones down the harder edges of her small screen persona; from Seinfeld to The New Adventures of Old Christine to Veep, the actress has often exhibited a caustic side worthy of Roller Derby, but here she’s a 40-something mom about to lose her daily dose of loving daughter and Dreyfus offers an Eva both knowing and rueful. As for Gandolfini, it’s an eye opening experience to see him as a self-effacing guy, wary about his body image yet unabashedly enthusiastic about his daughter and his work. Had this gifted actor lived longer, who knows what other iconic characters he would have embodied beyond Tony Soprano, the deeply troubled Mafia don who horrified yet enthralled America?
Romantic comedies rely most heavily on the likeability of their principal characters; see this one and fall in love with both of them.
The Verdict? A small gem in a genre not known for delivering shrewd observations along with humor and happy endings.
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