Elaine and Tony. A Love Story. – ★★★★
There’s a point about ten minutes in to Enough Said where you realise that it’s going to be impossible for critics or film fans to see this film with fresh, balanced eyes. This is because, as every pre-release bit of promotion has reminded us, one of the lead actors James Gandolfini, passed away before the film’s release. His first appearance on screens since then carries with it an intense sadness as you remember (as if you could forget) that this guy ain’t going to be making movies anymore.
Enough Said is a film about middle-aged divorcees at a time when their children are on the verge of going to college and effectively leaving their single parents without companionship or purpose. Leading the line is Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Eva, a masseuse who travels around to the houses of well-off white Californians and sets up her massage table while they bitch and moan at her. At a party she meets Albert (Gandolfini), a rotund “television library” curator who takes a shine to her. They begin dating and all seems to be going well until Eva realises that one of her clients (Catherine Keener as Marianne) is Albert’s ex-wife and has been badmouthing him and unwittingly revealing his bad habits. The sensible thing would be to fess up and sort things out, but that wouldn’t make for much of a movie now would it?
Director Nicole Holofcener (who also wrote the film) was responsible for the little-seen gem of a film Please Give (2010), which dealt with similarly well-off middle-aged people whose woes could all be labelled with the hashtag #firstworldproblems. There are some problems with her script here and the decision-making abilities of the cast but these are mostly forgotten due to the charm and charisma that exudes from these two legends of the small screen. Instead we’re left rooting for these two flawed specimens as they unwittingly hurt each other and those around them, all because it seems they’re not sure what they even want anymore.
J.L.D. is wonderfully mesmerising as always but it’s no surprise that she is firmly in the shadows behind her co-star. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see Gandolfini finding himself in awards contention in the Best Supporting Actor category, stranger things have happened and God knows how the Academy would love to go for a posthumous acknowledgement – Heath Ledger, Bernard Hermann, Conrad Hall and James Dean all spring to mind. His performance is gentle, nuanced and touching and will surprise people who only ever saw him in his trademark tough guy roles. The sad thing is we’re going to have to go through all this eulogising again when the delayed Saoirse Ronan-starring Violet & Daisy or the Dennis Lehane-scripted Animal Kingdom see release in Ireland.
If the people embodying the characters of Eva and Alfred weren’t such strong screen presences, you suspect Enough Said could quickly disappear from your memory. Instead it ends up being a charming and sweet story about the daft mistakes people make when trying to hit the reset button.
Opening nationwide across Ireland on October 18th 2013
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