The one constant surprise about getting older is that the ongoing lesson you soon learn is that you’ll never figure it all out. Whatever you seemed confident and sure about at twenty becomes more nuanced by thirty and by the time you’re seeing forty on the horizon, what was important two decades ago may seem trivial now. In short, life doesn’t keep you on a consistent learning curve, and continually changes the game and the rules, but lets all hope we have the heart and small wisdoms of Nicole Holofcener‘s “Enough Said” to carry us through.
Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) has certainly been a dealt a hand she couldn’t have imagined when she first got married. Now a divorced, single mom in middle age, she’s also now facing the prospect of an empty nest with her daughter Ellen (Tracey Fairaway) shortly leaving home to fly across the country to start college. And Eva’s not quite sure how that void will be filled. It definitely won’t be her work as a masseuse, which is simply routine at this point as her list of clients has stagnated. And while she hasn’t quite thrown in the towel on men, the prospect of a new partner isn’t one she’s putting much stock in at the moment.
But of course, life always has other plans, and instead of losing a daughter, Eva suddenly finds herself gaining a new client and acquaintance in the hippie poet Marianne (Catherine Keener) and an unlikely boyfriend in Albert (James Gandolfini). She meets them separately at a party, and it’s not long until both are drawn into her admittedly small circle. Outside of Sarah (Toni Collette) and her husband Will (Ben Falcone), Eva doesn’t have many friends, but Marianne quickly becomes more than just another client, while her relationship with Albert grows serious, quite quickly. So what’s the twist? It turns out Albert is Marianne’s ex-husband. And while most screenwriters or directors would make that the entire premise of their film, Holofcener proves once again why her films feature some of the most satisfying and well drawn observations about men and women and how they relate.
Though “Enough Said” wrings some good laughs out of Eva putting two and two together about the connection between Albert and Marianne, and then using it to her advantage (after all, who wouldn’t want the ultimate inside window into the person they’re dating?), Holofcener wisely spends just as much time exploring the consequences and fallout of her deception. By any measure, Albert isn’t someone Eva would usually go for. He’s big and burly (read: fat), and somewhat of an oaf, talking through movies in the theater and greeting Eva in his sweats after he invites her to his house for brunch. But he’s also sweet, sentimental and honest about his vulnerabilities, the latter point of which proves to be a quality Eva is sadly in need of herself.
Holofcener gives Louis-Dreyfuss a well drawn character to work with, and the actress makes it shine (she tends to be underrated for her ability to go dramatic), and together the director and star build an Eva that is only now learning what it takes to make a relationship work. The underlying lesson “Enough Said” aims to drive home, and does so softly, is that it’s more important to know what you truly want, and make it clear, rather than dwell on the small flaws of our lovers and hope they’ll change. It’s a small but important distinction in learning to open your life with someone, and it’s in that fine line that Holofcener builds her story.
Granted, it’s not an insightful or even profound revelation, but Holofcener pulls it together so well that it’s still deeply poignant. And moreover, each of the relationships in the film get their fair share of time (Sarah and Will get some great, funny scenes in which they openly complain about their marriage), creating different scenarios in which we see how only noticing the qualities a person lacks, instead of how they make us better, poisons potential and growth. And in Gandolfini’s beautifully warm turn as Albert, we see how such a selfish and cruel approach to relationships (as reflected by Eva’s actions) can leave deep, lasting wounds.
Centering on Eva and Albert, but using an ensemble not just as comedic padding but thematic foundation, Holofcener’s “Enough Said” is another tremendously well crafted, intelligent dramedy about people, with complicated lives, who make bad decisions trying to do the right thing. There are no big special effects, or visually ambitious sequences, but this is kind of movie we’d take any day of the week over the latest hundred million dollar blockbuster. Holofcener’s action centerpiece doesn’t involve capes but emotions, and they ring clear and true in a film that touchingly and realistically highlights all we still have to learn about the people we chose to spend our lives with, and provides enough hope that one day, we may just figure it all out. [B+]