Tuesday, October 1, 2013
In her last two films, writer-director Nicole Holfcener's sensibility was way off the mark. The characters in Holfcener's Friends With Money and Please Give were distinguished by their fuzzy motivations, unconvincing friendships, and often baffling behavior.
But the filmmaker is back on track with Enough Said; her focus is sharper and the results far more rewarding in this wry, engaging, life-sized modern comedy about refreshingly real people. And it doesn't hurt that Holfcener had the wit to cast the late, beloved James Gandolfini in a rare romantic role.
In Enough Said, larger themes of class, money, and privilege that have been obsessing Holofcener lately are relegated to subtext. This time, she moves personal relationships to the forefront—romantic, parental, and marital, along with her trademark friendships between women.
And as our tour guide into this milieu, she gives us protagonist Julia Louis-Dreyfus, at her most appealing and least snarky, as a long-divorced single mom unexpectedly trying to navigate the dating game at a crossroads in her life.
Eva (Louis-Dreyfus) is a mobile masseuse who schleps her massage table around to the homes of her various clients in the suburbs of Los Angeles. Cheerful and tolerant of her clients' quirks, she's also dreading the imminent departure of her teenage daughter, Ellen (an impressive Tracey Fairaway) to college.
At a party, Eva meets Marianne (Catherine Keener), a professional poet, who becomes Eva's new client. Eva is dazzled by Marianne's beautiful house, perfect furniture, and excellent taste, and they become fast friends.
Meanwhile, Eva also meets big, warm-hearted bear of a man, Albert (Gandolfini), a divorced father whose only daughter is also college-bound. They start dating and having a great time together.
The only sour note is sounded by Marianne, who keeps harping on the copious faults of her own ex-husband, and disparaging the very idea of romantic relationships. Soon enough, Eva is viewing her romance with Albert through the prism of Marianne's negativity. (Read more in this week's Good Times)