Mark Reviews Movies

Enough Said


3 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Nicole Holofcener

Cast: Julia Louis- Dreyfus, James Gandolfini, Catherine Keener, Toni Collette, Ben Falcone, Tracey Fairaway, Tavi Gevinson, Toby Huss

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for crude and sexual content, comic violence, language and partial nudity)

Running Time: 1:33

Release Date: 9/18/13 (limited); 9/27/13 (wider)

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Review by Mark Dujsik | September 26, 2013

Enough Said gives us plenty of romantic-comedy clichés and revolves around a premise that is tried and tired formula. Two people meet. They start dating. Something comes up that gets in their way, and their relationship is tested. The main difference that separates writer/director Nicole Holofcener's film from the formulaic trappings so prevalent in the genre is in what happens to put a wedge between the two lovers.

While the circumstances that bring the challenge to light are contrived, the results are not. The instigation of the central question of whether or not the couple will stay together may be an external one, but the exploration of the question relies entirely on the internal doubts, insecurities, and fears of one of the characters in the relationship. It's a subtle but vital difference—one that keeps the characters grounded in reality and that makes them more sympathetic for their travails.

The other simple—and perhaps even more important—element that sets Holofcener's study of the natural ups and self-inflicted downs of a relationship apart is the depiction of the characters themselves. These are likeable, fully relatable people who have flaws that are recognizable and, depending on the person who's witnessing those faults, of varying degrees of trouble, but despite or because of those imperfections and peculiarities, we always maintain a level of understanding toward these characters. As a result, we actually care about their relationship and want to see it succeed—or, if it collapses, that the failure be for the right reasons.

That there is that doubt even in us as to the ultimate fate of these two as a couple is a testament to the way Holofcener presents them as actual people and not the tools of the story, beholden to the whims of contrivances and plot devices. They are ordinary, hopeful people. They're a little sad and lonely, especially with the inevitable prospect of being the head of an empty nest, but that only gives us more reason to hope for the best and fear for the worst along with them.

Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is a masseuse with a cadre of clients who can barely engage in common courtesy—one blows his halitosis in her face, another blabs on incessantly about her own life, and the third stands at the top of the steps to his place, watching as she hauls her table up the stairs—let alone take any interest in her life. Her daughter Ellen (Tracey Fairaway) is about to leave for college and has grown distant from Eva in order to prepare for being on her own. Eva's best friend Sarah (Toni Collette) is married to Will (Ben Falcone) and keeps hinting that she might not be too happy in the marriage, and even though Sarah is a psychiatrist, she has too many of her own problems—taken out through her constant rearranging of furniture—to really be much of a help to Eva.

At a party, she meets two people who might change that. The first is Marianne (Catherine Keenner), a poet who, like Eva, is divorced and, also like Eva, can't even remember why she was attracted to her ex-husband in the first place. Marianne hires Eva as her masseuse, and the two quickly become friends.

The second person is Albert (the late James Gandolfini, in one of his final performances), an unfussy middle-aged man—just a regular guy. Eva jokes she's not attracted to any of the men at the party, and he counters that he's not attracted to anyone at the party, either.

Days later, Sarah mentions that Albert would like Eva's phone number, and the two go out on date in a sequence that succinctly captures the awkwardness of trying to figure out another person's sense of humor and learn as much of that person's life story. Even through the clumsiness, it's obvious that the two of them are comfortable with each other (Louis-Dreyfus and Gandolfini are so confident in their roles that the connection is palpable), which Eva tells her new confidant Marianne is what really appeals to her about him. She's concerned that he's overweight, but even Marianne's horror stories about her own overweight ex-husband can't deter Eva from falling for the guy.

That is until the film's most obvious machination is revealed. The specifics of the turn aren't important; it's the way Holofcener handles the results that is. Everything that Eva once liked about Albert comes into question, and she begins to pick apart things about his personality and behavior that otherwise might have gone unnoticed. Nothing about Albert has changed; it's only her perception of him that has shifted.

The relationship begins to slide, and it's all a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy—an act of sabotage to assign some certainty to the uncertain—that could easily be corrected with some basic, honest communication. Note the way Holofcener establishes Eva's hesitancy for such dialogue in Will's suggestion that, perhaps instead of complaining about it, she should simply ask the client who doesn't help her with the table for some help. Some people, the film suggests, are simply unaware of the effect their inability to think of another's side of things has on other people, and that includes Eva.

We get it, though. Here is a woman trying her hardest not only to seek out someone who fits into a certain standard for what she needs in her life but also to live up to a standard she has set for herself (Notice the way she readily becomes a mother figure to her daughter's friend, played by Tavi Gevinson, in order to fill that role for someone as her own daughter prepares to leave). These are normal, reasonable expectations, but Enough Said is about how easily the reasonable can become unreasonable when a person seeks proof for the inexplicable nature of romantic compatibility.

Copyright © 2013 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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