[This is a re-post of my review from the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival. Enough Said opens today in limited release.]
Enough Said doesn’t have enough to say, and that’s fine because it’s so pleasant, nice, sweet, and cute. There’s some light subtext about not substituting other people’s relationships for our own, but mostly the movie is about pairing together two charming lead actors in a romantic comedy, and just enjoying their chemistry. Julia Louis-Drefyus and James Gandolfini are completely endearing as a couple with playful banter, funny jokes, and mutual hesitations about trying to love someone who was deemed unlovable by somebody else. Even at the movie’s heaviest and most awkward moments, writer-director Nicole Holofcener’s light touch always keeps us smiling.
Eva (Louis-Dreyfus) is a divorcee who goes to a party with her friends/bickering married couple Sarah (Toni Collette) and Will (Ben Falcone). At the party, Eva meets and befriends Marianne (Catherine Keener), a poet. Eva also meets fellow divorcee Albert (Gandolfini), a guy with a sweet disposition and a wry sense of humor. When Albert asks for Eva’s number, the two start going out and really hit it off. However, Eva soon discovers that Albert is Marianne’s ex-husband, and begins to see her new boyfriend through the negative lens of his ex-wife.
The story takes a while to even get to the reveal that Marianne and Albert were married, and the film is the better for it. We get a chance to see how well Eva and Albert go together. She’s a bit uptight but not in a grating, neurotic way, nor is she desperate. She is, for all intents and purposes, a normal person who finds herself attracted to a guy who may be a little heavy and slovenly, but he’s also witty and lovable, so they click. Watching Gandolfini’s performance makes me miss the actor terribly, and while he became famous for playing the brutal Tony Soprano, I hope he’s also remembered for performances like these, which are, for lack of a better word, cuddly.
When Eva does discover that Marianne and Albert were married, the plot almost becomes too strained, but Holofcener and Louis-Dreyfus try to play it as straight as possible rather than going for wacky, farcical laughs. However, the movie does get intentionally awkward as Eva tries to change the bad habits she’s seeing in Albert that Marianne has inadvertently pointed out. But we’re really just counting down to Albert and Marianne discovering Eva’s deception, and that drains the picture of some of its joy. The relationship comedy starts to fade away in favor of an inescapable and contrived conflict. Eva isn’t neurotic, but she does a neurotic thing by hiding her new relationships from the former couple, and at best this brings out the film’s theme of trying to replace a relationship rather than having the courage to strike out a new one.
It’s a theme that’s mirrored in Eva’s relationship to Chloe (Tavi Gevinson), who is the friend of Eva’s daughter, Ellen (Tracy Fairaway). Ellen is about to go off to college, and Chloe is like a replacement daughter. Eva seems perfectly comfortable giving Chloe advice about sex, introducing her to Albert, and behaving like an adopted mother even though Chloe’s mom is alive and in her daughter’s life. It’s a bit sad, but Holofcener isn’t too interested in exploring how Eva creates these replacement relationships. The main emphasis is on just getting good laughs and warm, fuzzy feelings from watching Eva and Albert fall for each other.
Enough Said proves you don’t have to be stone-faced to watch a mature movie about middle-age relationships. Yes, these relationships can be frustrating and a little scary, but they also have the charm of people who have loved and learned but still have more to learn about love. Enough Said may not tap into anything extraordinary or incredibly insightful, but it doesn’t need to. We’re too busy caring about its characters and letting them bring a big smile to our faces.