Nicole Holofcener’s Enough Said goes down easy but is ultimately unremarkable, unmemorable, and at best a lower tier episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. It does, however, provide a nice distraction from all the hustle, bustle and muscle showcased this past summer at the movies. Which is why it’ll probably lull enough critics and moviegoers into assuming it’s a great film even though its sitcom-y one-liners and outlandish narrative twists argue otherwise. But more than likely, Enough Said will etch itself into history as one of the last films that starred the great James Gandolfini. And Gandolfini’s subtle displays of humanity do make the film glisten with decency and compassion, but is his turn as the lovable Albert a slam-dunk Oscar performance waiting to be awarded posthumously? I’m not so sure. I say this because postmortem performances can sometimes cloud one’s judgment about the quality at hand, perhaps ignoring some other exceptional talents that deliver just as good, if not better work in the given year (I’m looking at you, Like Someone in Love’s Ryo Kase). I have the utmost amount of respect for Gandolfini, his career and his incredible realization of television’s most fascinating anti-hero on the greatest show to ever grace our screens — The Sopranos. But if you respect his career and honor Gandolfini as a man dedicated to the craft of acting, then please judge him fairly alongside his peers when comparing this performance to others seen this year. If, in fact, Gandolfini is to be an awards contender, the accurate category he should be submitted for is “Best Supporting Actor” since the film is undeniably led by the always-reliable Julia Louis-Dreyfus.
Having been a fan of Julia Louis-Dreyfus since her Seinfeld days, I was elated when I learned that the famed television star would finally carry a film on her own. It’s about time Dreyfus’ talents weren’t constricted to a thirty-minute time frame, though perhaps Holofcener is too reliant on Dreyfus’ signature acting style for the film’s own good. Holofcener creates a kind of “Greatest Hits of Julia Louis-Dreyfus” montage with her recycled dialogue and unfunny jokes that might’ve landed well a decade or two earlier. Dreyfus, who pulls faces and has subtle fourth-wall breaks, is so cognizant that there’s an audience watching her character’s every response that she inadvertently pulls us out of the film’s chuckle-fueled, heart-searching world from time to time. All that’s missing in Enough Said is a laugh track to really drive home the point that what we are seeing is indeed laugh-worthy.
The film’s plot revolves around Eva (Dreyfus), a masseuse and divorcee mom stricken with empty-nest panic. Her daughter Ellen (Tracey Fairaway) is going off to college, leaving Eva to unconsciously seek out other fulfilling relationships. While attending a friend’s party, Eva meets two new people who have the potential to fill her daughter’s absence: Albert (Gandolfini), a television historian who preserves old episode reels, and published poet Marianne (Catherine Keener). Eva hits it off with both. She pursues Gandolfini romantically after a terrific first date, and Marianne professionally, with the added bonus of gaining a friend. Unbeknownst to Eva at first, Albert and Marianne were formerly married but divorced on nearly the worst of terms. The only person linking the two together is their daughter (Eve Hewson)…and now, conveniently, Eva! This narrative quandary is at the root of the film’s drama and humor, depended so heavily on that no other side-story flourishes or is given a just arc completion (Catherine Keener’s Marianne makes a disappearing act well before the film ends, a la Flight’s Kelly Reilly). Even Albert and Eva’s romance isn’t handled with the sentimental nurturing it deserves. I never knew if the two were actually in love with one another, or if Eva was forcing herself to love Albert so she could disprove Marianne’s cruel assertions regarding his worth as a life partner. Enough Said also makes some grand gestures highlighting the “true meaning” of love without really bothering to explore that definition on a non-surface level.
The silver lining of this rom-com is the relationship you didn’t anticipate forming but soon grow to love the most: that of Eva and her daughter’s best friend, Chloe (Tavi Gevinson). What starts off as something so innocent — Eva giving Chloe motherly advice on how to handle the trials and tribulations of adolescence — soon turns into something deeper and more profound. Two individuals with a vast age gap between them, both of whom are searching for emotional support that no one else wants to provide, come together in loving yet platonic unity. Eva and Chloe lean on each other to plow through life’s hurdles, ones that can either define or inhibit their womanhood. And yet, the characters who witness their bond — including, I’m sure, many audiences members — see their rare friendship as creepy and unnatural. But instead of vehemently standing her ground and being utterly proud of the relationship she’s written, Holofcener skirts around potential controversy by insinuating that both women only grew so close out of neediness. In other words, don’t worry, fearful parents, because this “dangerous” and “abnormal” relationship is just temporary! Although I wasn’t satisfied with how Eva and Chloe’s subplot concluded, I’m beyond grateful to have witnessed the birth of a star in Tavi Gevinson’s extraordinary debut performance. Mark my words, this girl is the next Michelle Williams. She’s quirky, ethereal and humorous but can turn the drama on if need be. She more than steals her scenes — she showers them with personality and an exemplary understanding of teenage behavior. I cannot wait to watch this young woman’s career explode. Consider Enough Said Tavi Gevinson’s ticking countdown to stardom.
As for the rest of the cast, it’s nice to see Catherine Keener turn on her villain switch when prompted. Her Marianne is an uppity intellectual snob that passes off as an enlightened do-gooder, but is really just a plain ol’ bully. In other words, she effectively plays a sham of an individual that we’ve all encountered at some point in our lives. Toni Collette and Ben Falcone are wasted as an unhappy married couple that only serve to remind Eva about what she doesn’t want in a long-lasting union of supposed love. The couple’s Hispanic maid (Angela Johnson-Reyes) is an even bigger mess of a character, so stereotypically written and acted that she makes Modern Family’s Sofia Vergara seem like a halfway authentic representation of the Latino community.
Tavi Gevinson and James Gandolfini are pretty much the only sources of joy I found in the film. I felt for their pain as confused, kind souls that live in a world that loves to judge superficially, and without remorse. The two actors make this formulaic, easy-breezy rom-com worth watching, clichés be damned! As mentioned earlier, you can imbibe Enough Said as effortlessly as water, but I was expecting Sideways-level Cabernet Sauvignon. Complex, this film certainly is not…but sweet? Okay, I’ll give it that. Enough said.
Fox Searchlight Pictures’ Enough Said hits theaters today, September 18th, in limited release. Check out the film’s trailer below: