I’m a happily married man, but if I were a divorcee looking to rekindle my sense of romance, I would only hope to be able to go on a first date with someone as vivacious and charming as Julia Louis-Dreyfus. In Nicole Holofcener’s sweetly funny middle-age romance, Louis-Dreyfus plays a masseuse named Eva who spends her days laying hands on people, but works hard to avoid getting under their skin. She’s funny and self-effacing, but also not entirely comfortable with making herself vulnerable again after the collapse of her marriage many years before.
A soon-to-be empty nester dreading the day her well-adjusted daughter, Ellen (Tracey Fairaway), will leave the house for college, she goes one night with her best friend, Sarah (Toni Collette), and her husband, Will (Ben Falcone), to a swank party. There she meets a new potential client, a personable poet named Marianne (Catherine Keener), and a potential new romantic prospect in museum curator and fellow future empty-nester Albert (the late James Gandolfini, in one of his last roles). Albert isn’t perfect by any means, Eva tells Sarah shortly after their surprisingly successful first date - he’s overweight and a self-professed slob - but he’s funny and kind and the chemistry they share is undeniable.
The trouble is, Eva is hearing so much negativity about husbands, either exes (from Marianne) or current ones (from Sarah), she can’t help but start deeply questioning her attraction for Albert. She can’t decide if his various pluses suitably outweigh his notable foibles, and she keeps hedging her bets with him until the entire complexion of their relationship changes for the worse. Naturally, there are other twists and turns I’ll refrain from delving into, but suffice it to say things eventually build to a head before everything comes crashing down around Eva’s ears and she’s forced to deal with the aftermath.
Holofcener, whose previous credits include Friends With Money and Please Give, has a good eye for character and a great ear for dialogue, the way people reveal themselves despite the words that are coming out of their mouths, even in someone as seemingly direct as Eva. She has also assembled herself a powerhouse cast, including the newly anointed Emmy winner Louis-Dreyfus, who I have never seen as nakedly emotional and vulnerable as she is here; and Gandolfini, without the Jersey mafioso affectation, who plays Albert as a perfectly imperfect man, lovable but not without sizable warts, of which he’s all too well aware.
As the film entirely depends on the chemistry of its leads, it’s wonderful (if more than a little sad) to watch the easy camaraderie and good humor of Gandolfini, a seriously underrated comic actor, play off of a firecracker like Louis-Dreyfus. Unlike her more famous TV roles (Elaine from Seinfeld and Selina Meyer from Veep), Holofcener has given Louis-Dreyfus a chance to steer away from her famously prickly comic persona. Eva isn’t overbearing or domineering.
She’s big-hearted, but terrified of what that might lead her into. She’s a woman caught between the wisdom of her feelings and the questioning she anticipates from everyone else.
The film also posits an interesting philosophical question: If we could know all the bad habits and enraging foibles of our future spouses beforehand, would we really want to find out? A big part of falling in love is learning just enough about your partner to suggest the almost limitless possibilities of their potential within your relationship.Eventually, of course, much of this gives way to the cold, hard reality that our companions are every bit as human and flawed as we are, and therein lies the moment we either maintain our commitment or cut bait and move on. The vexing thing is, until that happens, like Eva, we can’t make a decision. To be human is to have to face either the glory or the abyss long enough to recognize just how little it turns out we know about ourselves.
Enough Said 87 Cast: James Gandolfini, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Catherine Keener, Toni Collette, Ben Falcone, Tracey Fairaway Director: Nicole Holofcener Rating: PG-13, for crude and sexual content, comic violence, language and partial nudity Running time: 93 minutes
MovieStyle, Pages 33 on 10/04/2013
Print Headline: Enough Said