“Enough Said” — 3 1/2 STARS
A new film from Nicole Holofcener almost always seems a bit of a gift and this one is no exception.
If “Enough Said” doesn’t have quite as much emotional heft as the writer/director’s better previous efforts (2001’s “Lovely and Amazing,” say, or 2010’s “Please Give”), it’s still a substantial, thoughtful and casually witty comedy-romance. And it comes with the special bonus of a particularly warm and engaging change-of-pace performance from the late James Gandolfini in his next-to-last role.
And Julia Louis-Dreyfus of “Seinfeld” is not bad either in this rare film appearance, nicely complementing Gandolfini in a grown-up love story that actually involves two middle-aged, fairly ordinary, less than perfectly beautiful people. Talk about rare.
Louis-Dreyfus plays Eva, a 50-something Los Angeles masseuse and single mom, who spends her days lugging around her massage table, dealing with annoying clients and, lately, dreading the imminent departure of her 18-year-old daughter for college. At a friend’s party, she makes two new acquaintances: Marianne (Catherine Keener), a successful and somewhat insufferably pompous poet, and Albert (Gandolfini) a balding, overweight, somewhat scruffy TV historian whose wry, slightly acerbic sense of humor matches her own.
The gist of Eva and Albert’s first conversation is that neither of them finds anyone at that party, but we can immediately see that each has secretly found an exception — and the wary mating dance begins. The fact that Albert also is reluctantly preparing to pack a daughter off to college gives them something in common and Holofcener uses that opening to establish their connection. After that, humor helps them through the nervous business of sizing each other up as a prospect, each having suffered a marriage gone bad. They talk easily together, laugh a lot (no sitcom-style zingers here, just amusing, occasionally clever, natural conversation) and move on to the intimacy phase just as smoothly. In short, the situation definitely looks promising.
There’s just one problem. After taking Marianne on as a client, then quickly becoming her friend, Eva discovers that the ex-husband she frequently, and bitterly, complains about is Albert. But Eva says nothing, keeps listening and, gradually, without fully realizing it, what she hears begins to affect her feelings about him.
Conflicted women are typically Holofcener’s specialty, yet it’s Albert that looms largest in “Enough Said,” partially because Gandolfini is so good here playing against type. He still looks like Tony Soprano, burly and bearish, but he’s showing an entirely different side of himself — shy, sensitive, self-deprecating, even a little wounded perhaps. So it’s a bit painful to observe his confusion as Eva, inexplicably, begins to turn on him. “Why do I feel like I’ve just spent the evening with my ex-wife?” he asks while driving her home from a disastrous dinner party.
Of course, it’s doubly painful to realize we will have soon seen the last from Gandolfini, especially as he makes it clear he had so much more to offer.