“I know it sounds corny, but you broke my heart. And I’m too old for that shit.”
As a general rule, it’s easier for me to discuss the reasons I don’t like a movie than it is to discuss the reasons I do like a movie. And with romantic comedies, there are often many moments borne out of convention and necessity that cause me to grow sick of the film by about the halfway mark.
But when a movie gives you almost nothing to complain about it, no errant character development, no overly schmaltzy plot points, no cliched structure or clumsy storytelling, reviews tend to roll right off the fingertips. Enough Said, written and directed by Nicole Holofcener and starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus and the late James Gandolfini, is that movie, one that is not just honest in its storytelling but also honest in its portrayal of middle-aged romance.
Enough Said tells the story of Eva (Louis-Dreyfus), a 40-something divorcee unlucky in love, rarely attracted to the men she meets. She has a daughter, a high school senior who will be leaving for college soon enough, and Eva realizes life is going to change. Her career as a masseuse aside, she needs to find a hobby or something to keep her sane.
Eva’s friends drag her to a party so they don’t have to be alone around a bunch of people neither of them really know nor care to be around. At the party, Eva meets a potential new client, Marianne (Catherine Keener), but is having an otherwise not-so-noteworthy time. She tells her friend she isn’t attracted to any men at the party, a fact he mentions to two men standing nearby, one of whom is Albert (Gandolfini). “There’s no one here I’m attracted to either,” he says. Cue the meet-cute — which normally would seem contrived but, here, feels so honest.
Eva begins seeing Albert, their first date proving they have instant chemistry, similar senses of humor, and an ability to bond over their life experiences — both are divorced, both have daughters soon leaving the nest. They have great conversations, great dates, and great sex. He’s funny, charming, and sexy in a way Eva wouldn’t have assumed when the pair first met.
At the same time, Eva begins treating Marianne, quickly moving from masseuse to friend and sounding board, at which Marianne airs her biggest grievances. Primarily, she loves to bitch about her ex-husband. He’s unfunny, a slob, and clumsy in bed. She isn’t sure how they ever fell in love or what she saw in him all those years ago.
Just as quickly as Eva begins to fall for Albert, she realizes that he is the man her new friend despises, the man who isn’t funny, who doesn’t take care of himself, who isn’t sexy.
This story could have been told so horribly wrong. It could have been trite and conventional, ham-fisted and sentimental. But it’s not, and that’s why Enough Said succeeds; well, that and the performances of its charming cast. Julia Louis-Dreyfus isn’t an actress I normally care too much for, but here, she is extremely charismatic. And Gandolfini, that big bear of a man we lost earlier this year, plays so well against type, it’s a shame we won’t get to see more roles like this out of him. Now that’s poignancy.
Enough Said is very much adept at cutting through the crap and getting to the heart of its story. We see Eva begin to waffle on her decision to keep seeing Albert. The more bad things she hears about him from Marianne — who is unaware Eva and Albert are dating — the more Eva tries to pull those bad qualities out of him. She’s been through the honeymoon phase before, and while she likes Albert, she wants to save herself the heartache.
Perhaps the greatest quality of Enough Said is that, while it is an essential plot point, the film doesn’t necessarily make its love triangle the center of the story. It is instead a catalyst for other things that happen. There are plenty of external goings-on here that we aren’t explicitly focused on how Marianne’s feelings toward Albert might tarnish Eva’s relationship with him. In fact, it’s somewhat of an afterthought for a time. We see each of these relationships develop separately. Only once Eva realizes her true feelings for Albert do we see her begin to put up the wall Marianne has created. And by that point, the film and its characters have more than earned their stripes.
In all there is a lot to like here. Enough Said is well crafted and very smartly written. Dialogue feels natural and is quite often funny, yet it remains secondary to the characters that deliver those words. Driven by true, honest performances, this is one fine romantic comedy. Enough said.
Grade: ★★★★ out of ★★★★★
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for crude and sexual content, comic violence, language and partial nudity
Runtime: 93 minutes