Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Enough Said

ENOUGH SAID          B   
USA  (93 mi)  2013  d:  Nicole Holofcener             Official site

What’s perhaps most interesting about the film are the circumstances surrounding the making of the film, as who would have ever thought that Julia Louis-Dreyfus, the only female lead character from the infamous TV comedy sitcom Seinfeld (1989 – 1998), a show that for all practical purposes was about nothing, would somehow be starring in a movie opposite James Gandolfini from The Sopranos (1999 – 2007, the cable TV show that ranks among the greatest ever, a mob crime boss with a hair-trigger temper whose anger issues are notorious, and who personally executes about a dozen people on the show.  Louis-Dreyfus hasn’t made a movie since Woody Allen’s DECONSTRUCTING HARRY (1997), so the likelihood of these two crossing paths was highly unlikely, yet here they are starring opposite one another, and it happens to be the final film of Gandolfini’s career due to his premature death.  Brilliant as he was in Zero Dark Thirty (2012), Not Fade Away (2012), and Killing Them Softly (2012), Gandolfini is often at his best when showing a tender and vulnerable side, where he’s a gentle giant of a man capable of genuine sweetness that can sweep you off your feet.  Despite a formidable screen prominence throughout the film, one gets the feeling that it’s not enough, that we wish there could be more, where it’s hard to believe that this is the end.  But it’s a very classy role that Gandolfini fits to a T, as he’s a perfect fit for the part of Albert, a divorced husband living alone in a modest home while his ex-wife Marianne (Catherine Keener) and beautiful teenage daughter Tess (Eve Hewson, Bono’s daughter) live in a luxurious estate in Santa Monica overlooking the ocean.  He allows them to indulge in all the luxury, which they most certainly do, while he lives a completely unpretentious life.  The film, however, is seen through the eyes of Eva (Louis-Dreyfus), another divorced single parent who works as a masseuse, whose most distinctive characteristic is the ability to quietly listen to the endless gripes and moans of her customers complaining about their banal lives without so much as uttering a peep in response. 

The rhythm of the film is established by Eva’s routine of visiting her various clients, each with a distinct personality that includes something that usually grates on her nerves but she never speaks of it, where we see her endlessly lugging around her portable table before arriving back home to her daughter Ellen (Tracey Fairaway), who’s on the verge of leaving home for Sarah Lawrence University.  While Eva has a close relationship with her daughter, who often appears more grounded and stable than her mother, she has issues about being alone afterwards, as if she’s supposed to have “found herself,” instead of feeling restless about her all but uncertain future.  At a party, she meets a new guy, Albert, though at the time she claims there are no attractive men at the party, and feels, at least initially, like he’s fat and overweight, as if he doesn’t take care of himself, but he’s also funny and really easy to get along with.  At the same time, she also meets an interesting writer, Marianne, who lives in a fabulously upscale home where everything is perfectly in place, where it’s like the ideal dream home for Eva, as it’s unbelievably comfortable for the masseuse as well.  Eva quickly becomes fast friends with both, initially not sure about Albert, but their quick wit quickly escalates into a romantic affair, while everything about finding Marianne is like she hit the motherlode.  In addition, Eva latches onto her daughter’s best friend Chloe (Tavi Gevinson), who really dreads her own homelife and basically never goes home, where Chloe’s more straightforward and emotionally communicative than her own daughter, all of which gives Eva a certain stature, as if she’s a strong and stable force, yet Louis-Dreyfus has made a living doing insecure comedy, where her character usually unravels in a spectacular meltdown of sorts, yet here, despite her most anxious fears, she holds her own and easily carries the picture. 

While Eva and Albert have plenty in common, divorcées with intelligent daughters that are about to leave for prestigious universities, each unable to fathom what they ever found in their ex-spouses, as they have so little in common with them today, completely at odds in parenting techniques which led to most of the endless marital arguments.   Unbeknownst to Eva, Marianna and Albert were once married, and the guy she continually rails against during her masseuse sessions is Albert, which puts him at a distinct disadvantage and in an entirely different light, as he’s not there to defend himself.  In fact, like all the other problems and complaints she hears, Eva listens but says nothing, irregardless of potential consequences.  While all the actors have a natural affinity for authenticity, including Toni Collette as Eva’s best friend, who even retains her Australian accent, the movie also hits all the narrative notes of impending middle age, where one has had to rebound from past mistakes, where friends are few as relationships didn’t turn out the way they expected, and one has had to navigate their way through an unpleasant divorce while sharing the job of raising children.  Sexual relations have imploded, where marriage seems to be a place where sex literally goes to die, and there’s plenty of bitter sarcasm in its place.  Throughout these mainstream perceptions that are fodder for any number of television shows and movies, this well written but overly conventional film doesn’t really reach for more, but settles for easy going laughs, a few moments of comic wit, and plenty of awkward sequences that are meant to show how relentlessly unforgiving people can be, especially at middle age when they have been through all this before, and the idea of being undermined or hurt again simply doesn’t sit well as one’s idea of a healthy relationship.  Due to the quality of the performances, even when underwritten, the actors carry it off, especially Gandolfini and Louis-Dreyfus, as their screen presence is so appealing.  It does feel bittersweet seeing someone's last and final performance, especially one where the actor seems so perfectly comfortable in the role, which adds a heightened poignancy to his character, as in every screen or theatrical performance, whether full throttle male macho or the most tender moments, Gandolfini exhibits an indomitable spirit that leaves the audience wishing for more.        

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