Friday, September 27, 2013

Albert & Eva, Not Exactly In Eden, In The City Of Angels

James Gandolfini as Albert and Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Eva in Nicole Holofcener's romantic comedy "Enough Said".  Fox Searchlight


Omar P.L. Moore/        Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW                                           
Friday, September 27, 2013

One of the year's best films, the beautiful, richly appealing "Enough Said" has at its heart genuine adults, tender emotion and the complexity of life enjoyed and endured.  Nicole Holofcener's romantic comedy -- a dramatic journey of everyday meetings and sometime coincidence -- stars an excellent Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Eva, a bright-eyed, cheery Los Angeles masseuse and divorcee in her fifties.  Eva's daughter is about to head to college as Eva embarks on an unexpected romance with the insecure and charming Albert (James Gandolfini), himself divorced with a daughter in the same situation as Eva's.  

Albert and Eva are not exactly Adam and Eve and get along like a house on fire before dating.  "There's nobody here I'm attracted to," says Eva sheepishly at a party in their initial meeting.  "There's nobody here I'm attracted to either," Albert replies.  They, and we, know better.  Meanwhile Eva's psychiatrist friend Sarah (Toni Collette) compulsively rearranges her furniture and gives Eva the best bad advice a friend can, while her husband (Ben Falcone) gives Eva compliments he doesn't give Sarah, who is busy telling the housekeeper where not to put things around their big house.

"Enough Said" marvels in small moments like these and realizes they are everything to the characters, tied in to their identity, restlessness and environment in such an acute way.  Mr. Gandolfini, magnificent in one of his final big screen performances, plays arguably the closest character to who he was in real life.  Fear, worry, humor and hurt are all over Albert's face in his most vulnerable hour.  The chemistry between Ms. Louis-Dreyfus and Mr. Gandolfini, as two challenged opposites, is a sexy, wonderful treat.  Their characters let their hair down and their feelings about each other hang out with fun, laughs and unbridled honesty.

Lonely, Eva befriends fellow divorcee Marianne (Catherine Keener), a client of hers, and begins hearing uncomplimentary things about her ex-husband.  Eva doubts her own relationship, and it is in these episodes that intellect, not foolery or obviousness, plays.  Ms. Louis-Dreyfus sublimates her comedic skills utilizing them to display a psychological state of limbo, acting out insecurity and helplessness realistically rather than making Eva an easy fool.  It's a great performance, delicately punctuated with appreciable depth and subtlety. 

More than anything "Enough Said" is a fully-rounded film about communication, companionship, relationships and transition in middle-age.  Can we handle these antsy, uncertain periods in our lives?  Do these characters?  There's no right or wrong answer in "Enough Said".  On another note, the emotional complexity and gossipy cattiness women sometimes exhibit towards each other and about men is front and center.  This is true of one of Eva's clients, a woman forever stressed out and continually speaking negatively about her circle of women friends.  The answer to my question is exhibited in the worried client's run-on sentences.

With natural scenarios and relatable characters Ms. Holofcener is always careful and deliberate with the terrain they tread.  In her films much is plausible and relatable, including the childlike, absurd behavior of mature adults.  Such behavior isn't exploited for comedy theater, only for the comedy of the tragedy it represents.  Divorced, with her own sons nearing college age, Ms. Holofcener is fully immersed and in touch with real life and the larger real world surrounding it, as are her characters, even if the world her film acolytes populate is relatively small.  In just her fifth feature Nicole Holofcener shows she's America's best big-screen chronicler of middle-aged, middle-class women, their fears, anxieties, glories and misadventures. 

Through her collection of characters Ms. Holofcener brings even-handedness and keen observations about people, perceptions and viewpoints.  It's difficult to sit through a sunny film like "Enough Said" without pondering one's own experiences.  "Enough Said" has a refreshing depth and quality that's a hallmark of Ms. Holofcener's well-written, tightly-focused screenplays.  There's a state of unease and quiet disorder about everyday life among the prosperous Angelenos of "Enough Said", in the most mundane events. 

"Enough Said" represents what a Hollywood romantic comedy for grown ups should be.  Ms. Holofcener's story is a literate, sensible collection of situations and casual interactions.  Zany, idiosyncratic and awkward scenarios emerge from authentic human foibles and habits, not left field.  Intellectualizing exists not for show or pretention ala "Before Midnight" but for their own sake, in an organic way.  There's substance and a breath of fresh air in the peace and quiet of companionship.  These characters are who they are.  They aren't for show.  If the cameras were off them they'd behave like this.  How would we behave in their shoes? 

In depicting Eva and company Ms. Holofcener shows 21st century life among middle-aged Californians that is poignant, engaging and simply brilliant.  "Enough Said", a true joy and delight, is a movie that leaves you with a light, positive sensation and a feeling that anything, absolutely anything at all, is possible in relationships. 

Also with: Tavi Gevinson, Tracey Fairaway, Michaela Watkins, Chris Smith, Jessica St. Clair.

"Enough Said" is rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association Of America for sexual content, some thematic material and brief language
The film's running time is one hour and 33 minutes. 

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