Sunday, December 1, 2013

ENOUGH SAID: The Films Are Alright

[This article originally appeared on]

Several years ago, Nicole Holofcener directed a film called LOVELY AND AMAZING, criminally unknown to many, but beloved by those who saw it. It’s too bad that Holofcener already used that title, since it would have been apt for her latest film, ENOUGH SAID. The new film is both lovely and amazing.

Holofcener is a wonderful aberration in the world of cinema. Her movies are talky, inwardly drawn, and almost always centered on a thirty- to forty-something female character (or many such female characters). Stand-ins for what Holofcener wants to say about the world - about how we live, and how we interact with each other - one can sense that the lead characters have matured with the director through successive films. This should tell you then that her films do not exactly set the box-office ablaze. Which might change with her latest offering; it will surely be her most profitable venture. Holofcener has always had a knack for good writing, and with ENOUGH SAID she (intentionally?) moves about as mainstream with her storytelling as she ever has. Couple that with some particularly on the nose casting, and you get a warm pudding of a film. You would have to be a Grinch to resist its charms.

This time, the lead character is a masseuse, Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) who is trying to navigate post-divorce life with the hallmark embarrassments and despairs that are characteristic of this filmmaker’s work. Struggling with both professional and personal impediments, she forges a friendship with an impossibly self-assured woman who appears to have it all (played by Holofcener mainstay Catherine Keener who is as usual fine here, although I can’t help thinking that with a bigger budget, Cate Blanchett might have been hired for this role). Eva also tentatively starts what might be a romantic connection with the laid-back, affable Albert (James Gandolfini, in one of his final film roles). Each has grown daughters from prior marriages. And individual careers. And each is of that age when a person knows who they are, and have settled into the shape of their adult personality, not willing to alter it for another person. Willfully allowing their separate worlds to collide will have its implications.

It is curious that many longtime Holofcener champions as well as those unfamiliar with her work have complained that this movie is reminiscent of a sitcom. Were it that every television sitcom were this perceptively written, finely acted, and tethered to the very grounded realities of day-to-day living.

Publicity still from ENOUGH SAIDThe genius of this film - and I don’t use the word ‘genius’ lightly - is in the casting. Whoever thought to bring Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini together - not exactly an obvious pairing - must have had the hand of cinematic gods on their shoulder. These two are magic. And one cannot help be wistful knowing that we will never see them act together again. Plus the movie adds further evidence to the theory that every film is bettered by the presence of Toni Collette.

I have long been part of the militant minority that has been singing loud the praises of Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Is there another actor working in film or television right now that does better reaction shots? Her facial reactions are Film School class good. There is something right with the world when a stellar television actor gets to headline a film. There has been some surprisingly nasty reaction, thankfully from a minority, to Luis-Dreyfus’ performance in this film; those not recognizing the wit in her acting will be awfully late to the party. With her lauded turns on HBO’S VEEP and the underrated, now cancelled show NEW ADVENTURES OF OLD CHRISTINE (with which this film shares much of its sensibility), Louis-Dreyfus’ star is on the rise. And one oddly resents sharing a personally known secret treasure with the rest of the world.

And what is one to say of James Gandolfini. That someone thought to consider him as a male romantic lead is cause for celebration. That he utterly pulls it off - using every facet of his dog-eared, scrappy, warmly intelligent persona to full effect - comes as a surprise; it shouldn’t have, but it does. That film cameras will never focus upon Gandolfini again is reason for considerable sadness.

There’s a scene early in the movie where Albert drops Eva outside her home at the end of their first date. In lesser hands their lines would have come off as silly or worse cheesy. But to watch Gandolfini and Louis-Dreyfus make that dialog sing is to know the value of good actors.

This film reminded me, in its modern, urban, everyday sensibility of the movie THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT. Like that film, ENOUGH SAID pulls off one sleight of hand after another in fleshing out, with remarkable skill – and efficiency – so many relationships: mothers and daughters, ex-wives and ex-husbands, employers and maids, confidantes and confessors. All of it works.

One may get the impression that the film is overly serious; this is hardly the case. Even as it has an understated gentleness to its rhythm, and an underlying wiseness lurking underneath, the film is mostly genuinely funny on a minute-by-minute basis. The movie’s singular strength though may be in the ease with which it demonstrates the need for, and the great difficulty in, practicing acceptance in any relationship. About how what might seem an unbearably annoying trait to one individual may be endearingly charming to another.

A.O. Scott in the New York Times called this film a minor miracle and I can see why. It is the sort of unshowy, unfussy, and uncommonly well-written film that rarely gets made these days.

No comments:

Post a Comment