Throughout her filmmaking career, Nicole Holofcener has displayed an uncanny ability to create characters whose thoughts and fears tap directly into our own. Or is it me? To call her movies chick flicks is derisive, as her messages are universal, regardless of gender. And with Enough Said, she gives us two equally remarkable, if naturally flawed, parts of what could be a romantic pairing, and it’s delightful, funny, warm, sad, and incredibly profound.
Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), a divorced masseuse, is freaking out about the prospect of her future—for one thing, her daughter Ellen (Tracey Fairaway) is about to leave for college. But she’s increasingly fearful about a future lived solo, lugging her massage board around to homes much nicer than hers, and to clients like Marianne (Catherine Keener) much more together than she. When she meets Albert (the late James Gandolfini), sparks shimmer, and for the first time in ages, she feels like there just might be something more in store for her. Of course, love the second time around, especially in middle age, has its own quirks and discomforts, like adjusting to a, well, foreign body in your bed, and trying not to let suspicions run rampant, as when Eva does a secret recon of Albert’s bathroom, only to discover he’s got a lot of tooth brushes—but then again, what can that mean?
Just as Eva starts to let loose and enjoy the charming, laid-back Albert, she begins to notice that the obnoxious ex about whom Marianne is always, always complaining, is one and the same as her own new beau. Marianne’s barbs begin to fester in Eva’s imagination to the point where she can’t let Albert’s having another helping of guacamole go without a tart recommendation that he read a diet book. Eva’s inability to weed out Marianne’s obviously biased perceptions about and experiences with Albert—her unwillingness to consider that things just might be different between the two of them—is cringeworthy, even as it strikes a chord. Which one of us hasn’t, at some point in life, been negatively influenced about a friend or lover by an associate whose opinion, for whatever reason, really matters to you? This doesn’t just happen in Pretty in Pink.
As with all of Holofcener’s movies, there are other characters weaving in and out of the narrative but serving definite purposes. Ellen’s friend Chloe (Tavi Gevinson) allows herself to be advised and nurtured by needy Eva. Friends Sara (Toni Collette) and Will (Ben Falcone) advise Eva about her new relationship, even as theirs seems fraught with tension and misplaced priorities. There is nothing in the movie that doesn’t lend itself to the understanding of two very realistic characters and their lives, their backstories, and their hopes and aspirations.
A friend told me she had read a review of this movie that scoffed at the idea that it could be watchable, since Gandolfini tragically passed away earlier this year. While that does lend poignancy to entering the theater, Gandolfini’s Albert is the epitome of a life well enjoyed and shared, definitely something we want to be part of—and fervently wish Eva could finally embrace. Enough Said is that rare movie which I could watch again and again, and not mind paying repeatedly for the privilege. In an era where digital effects and 3-D and retreads of TV shows are the norm at the box office, Enough Said is in some ways a throwback to another era, when story and character were paramount; in this instance, I prefer to think that it, and its maker, are pioneers of what could be a brave new cinematic world.