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ENOUGH SAID (2013) review

September 26, 2013

enoughsaidposter

 

written by: Nicole Holofcener

produced by: Anthony Bregman and Stefanie Azpiazu

directed by: Nicole Holofcener

rating: PG-13 (for crude and sexual content, comic violence, language and partial nudity)

runtime: 93 min.

U.S. release date: September 18, 2013 (limited) & September 27, 2013 (wide)

 

In recent years, sitting through a rom-com has been an ordeal, what with all the awful Katherine Heigl and Gerard Butler duds. But there are a few writer/directors who can bring a rare experience to the genre – Lisa Cholodenko (“The Kids Are All Right”) and Nicole Holofcener (“Please Give”), come to mind – the kind that serves as a reminder that there are still filmmakers that are determined to bring real people to the big-screen and let viewers to relate to their relationship woes, while allowing the natural laughs to come uncomfortably and awkwardly. Holofcener’s latest, “Enough Said”, is that kind of romantic comedy – scratch that – it’s more of a bittersweet dramedy

Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfuss) is a divorced middle-aged single parent working as a masseuse in Southern California, whose only daughter, Ellen (Tracey Fairaway “The Bling Ring”), is about to head off to college. She’s dreading it and feeling like everything is happening too fast, worried for her girl and what her life will be like with an empty bedroom in their home. One night, while playing the third wheel to her bickering married couple friends, Sarah (Toni Collette) and Will (Ben Falcone), at a party, she meets Albert (James Gandolfini). She’s not looking to meet anyone there (a point she makes hilariously evident) and there’s something about how Albert doesn’t seem to bothered by her demeanor that sticks with her. It’s an odd yet unpredictable encounter that is for this cautious and slightly neurotic woman, something unusual but curious.

At that party, she also meets and befriends Marianne (Catherine Keener), a well-known local poet who Eva gives her card to, hoping to get a new client out of the evening. Eva eventually gets a call from Marianne and the two hit it off, getting along much more amicably than Eva’s other clients. One thing about Marianne though – she spends entirely too much time ragging on her ex-husband. During this time, Eva starts going out with Albert. He’s funny and kind and also has a daughter (played by Eve Hewson, Bono’s daughter) he’s about to send off to college. Despite her doubts, Eva hits it off with Albert as he falls for her, until she comes to realize that the ex-husband Marianne is always going on about is Albert. Marianne’s bitterness and negativity start to take a toll on Eva’s approach to her budding relationship with Albert.

 

enoughsaidfriends

 

Now, that’s not really that much of a spoiler. The revealing element there is in the ads, the plot summary and the trailer. So, if you hadn’t seen any of that yet, just know that there are several factors in the movie that slowly hint at this revelation, both in humorous and awkward ways. It’s not until the movie’s third act that all three characters converge, in one of the most uncomfortably awkward scenes I’ve seen all year. By then, You really feel a variety of emotions for these characters: heartbreak, frustration and sadness (to name a few). By then, we’ve come to be happy for two lost souls finding each other (in Eva and Albert) and yet we lament as we watch an understandable rift can come between them.

The bittersweetness of the movie comes from several different places. It stems from having a dead-on solid script by Holofcener, who has her actors portraying characters who sound real and behave in an honest and believable (and often quite funny) manner, complete with insecurities and uncertainties that are familiar, as well as witty sarcasms and unintentionally hurtful behavior.

Holofcener doesn’t excuse the bad decisions Eva makes that eventually derails her relationship, nor does she play them for laughs. In fact, there are a handful of reflective scenes that Louis-Dreyfuss deftly handles, conveying an appropriate amount of emotion – the kind that we may not be used to from this actress. It all shines a sobering light on her humanity and Louis-Dreyfuss may be channeling a little bit of her Elaine character from “Seinfeld” here, but you could also say that she’s channeling Woody Allen as well. Even though all these characters fit together nicely in a very convenient and comfortable manner, there’s a resounding truth in the combination of honest dialogue and fine performances.

 

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There’s kind of a running subplot, involving Chloe (Tavi Gavinson), a needy teenage friend of Ellen’s, who’s always hanging out with Eva, almost like a replacement daughter for when Ellen is gone. It’s particularly hurtful for Ellen, something that she hints at to her mother more than once (both Fairaway and Gavinson are quite good in these scenes), but Eva just doesn’t see her daughter’s feelings and, if she does, is too slow to address them. It takes too long for us to reach a tender scene in Ellen’s bedroom as she’s packing for college, where she finally expresses to Eva her feelings of envy, anxiety and loneliness about seeing her mother draw close to her friend and the upcoming transition to college.

It’s a great scene, it just feels like Eva should’ve had this heart to heart with her daughter already. She should’ve honed in on the truth sooner. But, facing the truth is something that Eva has a hard time doing in general – in her relationship with Albert and in her friendship with Marianne. Sure, when she starts to connect the dots about who is who, there’s awkward comedy (playing off a bit much like a scenario out of “Three’s Company”), but after a while the reality of it is just hurtful – especially for Gandolfini’s Albert, who winds up feeling like a complete idiot for getting his heart-broken at his age.

On that note, “Enough Said” left me feeling heavy with sadness over the recent loss Gandolfini (who died at age 51), because of his excellent career performance here. It’s a tender, sensitive and vulnerable side to the actor that most audiences aren’t used to – I know I wasn’t – and I was immediately drawn to his relaxed yet nuanced work here. It would’ve been wonderful to see him land more roles like this, but at least we can always come back to the great interactions he has with Louis-Dreyfuss here. You would probably never think the two would have such great chemistry – something that Holofcener reminds us of throughout – but considering who the characters are and how talented the actors playing them are, it makes sense.

As much as I’ve developed a general distaste for rom-coms, especially ones depicting well-off White People and their problems (Nancy Meyer’s “It’s Complicated” comes to mind), I cannot put this movie in that subgenre. It wouldn’t be fair since the characters here have more dimension to them. Plus,  I cared about them. I wanted Eva and Albert to work out and was interested in who they are and what they do. They felt like people I know, filled with flaws and fears. People who talk about silly hypothetical situations, fake boobs and whether or not teens are doing threesomes nowadays, all while trying to make sense of where they should go in life.

 

enoughsaidthreesome

 

RATING: ***

 

enoughsaidcouple

 

 

 

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