Saturday, October 12, 2013

Enough Said

What does a woman want?  
Does she trust herself to know?

     Nicole Holofcener has written and directed some of the most compelling serious romantic comedies of the past seventeen years, beginning with the loose, laid-back Walking and Talking (1996) and she continues that streak with the delicately calibrated exploration of middle age and
second or last chance at love in Enough Said.  Holofcener’s movies always leave me thinking to myself ‘nobody said anything stupid,’ which is remarkable for any American comedy.  

     Enough Said works because of a strong script, star performers that actually look and act like characters they’re playing in terms of social and economic class, pacing that allows the story and the audience to breathe, and a tone that neither underlines nor editorializes about the characters or the theme.  For instance, it wasn’t until after the movie was over that I understood the depth of Catherine Keener’s character’s failures and the extent of Toni Collette’s character’s neuroses.

Gandolfini, Louis-Dreyfus, and Dexter
     The main characters are Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and Albert (James Gandolfini), both divorced and not really looking, but cautiously entering a relationship.  The simultaneously complicating factor is Eva’s developing friendship with her massage client Marianne (Catherine Keener), a successful poet with a beautiful ‘20s Spanish bungalow (no one lives in a two-story house in a Holofcener movie) and many stories about her disastrous, failed marriage and her ex-husband.  Of course, there’s a connection that Eva sees (the audience probably gets it earlier), which threatens her happiness because she doesn’t ‘fess up early enough.

Collette and Falcone
     Like Gina Gionfriddo’s Rapture, Blister, Burn at Ensemble, Enough Said places the frustrations of middle-aged women centrally.  Sarah (Toni Collette) has a successful career and an adoring husband (Ben Falcone, whose droll timing and quick reactions speak volumes about his perplexity), but she works out her dissatisfactions in a passive-aggressive relationship with her housekeeper and by moving the furniture continually.

Fri-enemies Connecting
Marianne seems glamorous because she is an artist and that certainly takes in Eva, but she fails with people.  She admits she has no friends and she is flummoxed when fans congratulate her, but she cannot let go of her romantically challenged past and that has played itself out in her snobby daughter.  Eva is a consummate people person with a great sense of humor, but she feels she doesn’t quite measure up professionally with her friends, even though she seems to be very good at her job.  She’s also successful as a mother, though she unwittingly oversteps a boundary with her daughter’s needy friend.

Eva with Her Daughter's Best Friend
     Louis-Dreyfus connects immediately with an audience because we have twenty-five years of happiness with her performing, but here she digs deep, especially in the last scene because there isn’t a complete resolution.  After all, this is middle age.  Gandolfini
Gandolfini in His Prime
is beautifully cast as an unlikely romantic lead because he’s genuinely kind (it takes a while to see that after years of Tony Soprano and his performances for In The Loop and Zero Dark Thirty) and quietly passionate.  It’s a genuine shame that he died earlier this year because it’s obvious he had a range and a performing persona that was still developing.  Keener has patented a blend of tough/vulnerable/bohemian and it works wonders here.  She’s been a muse for Holofcener and it’s because she just puts it out there.

     Holofcener’s main characters have grown up, matured, and are growing old with her.  This could be a limitation if she is unable to develop a new generation of characters the way Woody Allen has in the past fifteen years, though he’s had some rough patches in doing so.  The younger daughter characters in Lovely & Amazing, Please Give, and Enough Said have elements of fascination that could be expanded into full narratives in the future.

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