Julia-Louis-Dreyfus-James-Gandolfini-Enough-Said

Indie auteur, Nicole Holofcener deftly tackles her first romantic comedy with help from a spectacular Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini in the witty and charming Enough Said. Sure Nancy Meyer’s cashmere-coated portrayals of mature love have become the cinematic standard, but Holofcener, famous for her insightful depictions of intimate female relationships, somehow manages to chart this territory without losing any of the delicate magic that pervades every one of her previous films. Keeping things planted firmly in reality but somehow still breezy and romantic, her sophisticated tale of love the second time around examines class discrepancies, parenting, familial expectations, and the complexity of friendship as only Holofcener can.

After divorcing her first husband due to thoroughly irreconcilable differences, Eva (Louis-Dreyfus) has been content to spend the last decade single, nurturing her successful massage business and raising perhaps the only thing that her and her ex did right together, their beautiful and sensitive daughter, Ellen (Tracey Fairaway). However, when her close friends, Sarah and Will (Toni Collette and Ben Falcone) drag her out to a typically uninspiring LA party, Eva’s comfortable routine is shaken up by a chance meeting with a funny, shy, slightly overweight single dad named Albert (Gandolfini).

Oddly enough, she also unknowingly meets Albert’s ex wife (Holofcener-stalwart, Catherine Keener) at the same party. A poetess with an eye for perfection and a seriously sore shoulder, Marianne is elegant, fascinating, and in need of a good masseuse. After agreeing to meet for weekly treatments, the two women become fast friends and confidents, even though this clearly doesn’t bode well for Eva’s burgeoning relationship with Albert. That’s because Marianne doesn’t have the most flattering things to say about the father of her child, and before long, Eva finds herself viewing her kind-hearted new man through the critical, clearly subjective eyes of his ex.

The premise might sound a bit sitcomy, and in ways it is… but so what? Holofcener’s films have always been the cinematic equivalent of pleasant meanderings in which the greatest finds are serendipitously stumbled upon. Plot is merely an excuse for this perceptive artist to examine friendship (Walking and Talking) mothers/daughter relationships (Lovely and Amazing) financial inequality (Friends With Money) and even upper class guilt (Please Give) without appearing didactic, or worse, like she’s trying to hard. By profiling love, the second time around in Enough Said, the thoughtful  filmmaker is able to raise questions about compromise and expectations, perception and vitality, among the many other prescient human issues that populate each and every one of her films.

Plenty of up and coming writer/directors have tried to imitate Holofcener’s style, but there’s simply no one who deals in the intimate rhythms of emotion, and questions the unspoken rules of polite society like her. It’s as if Jane Austin somehow woke up in modern day NYC or LA, got herself a therapist, and worried more about growing apart from her bff or managing her mother’s expectations, than finding a Mr. Darcy.

And who better to play Holofcener’s latest Austenian heroine than Emmy Award Winning comic treasure, Julia Louis-Dreyfus? Watching this dedicated, physical actress sink her teeth into a part this deliciously complex, perfectly calibrating every emotion to both comical and heartbreaking effect, is simply breathtaking. In a perfect world, the actress would be Oscar-Nominated for her role (she’s every bit as vulnerable and immersive as Diane Keaton was in Something’s Gotta Give) but hopefully this will at least convince Hollywood that she needs to be in more pictures.

Sadly, that’s impossible for James Gandolfini, another television icon who stretches far beyond his perceived image to play a loveable lug, refreshingly unafraid to reveal his emotions and insecurities. It’s a bittersweet swansong for an actor who had only begun to explore his startling versatility, but alas this performance, and his electric chemistry with his leading lady, won’t be forgotten any time soon. Otherwise, Keener, Collette, and Falcone (a scene stealer like his wife, Melissa McCarthy) each turn in reliably top-notch performances.

As she’s proven since first breaking out in the mid 90’s, nobody dramatizes the intimate aspects of everyday life quite like Nicole Holofcener. Sure she’s equipped with an artist’s understanding of the human heart, and yes, her examinations of the ties that bind are unparalleled, but it’s the ease and intimacy of her work that truly never ceases to amaze. Fronted by the imitable Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini, Holofcener’s latest represents a career best for the writer director…  Enough Said.