Friday 4 November 2016

Movie Review: Enough Said (2013)

A smart romantic comedy for adults, Enough Said is a prescient journey through the complications of emotional relationships during middle age.

In Los Angeles, Eva (Julia Louis Dreyfus) is a divorced masseuse, close to giving up on finding another fulfilling relationship. Her daughter Ellen (Tracey Fairaway) is about to fly the nest to go to college. Eva accompanies her married friends Sarah and Will (Toni Collette and Ben Falcone) to a party, where she meets poet Marianne (Catherine Keener) and burly television library curator Albert (James Gandolfini). Marianne becomes Eva's new client and then a good friend. Meanwhile Albert and Eva go out on a date and a romance blossoms.

Albert shares custody of his daughter Tess (Eve Hewson), who is also college bound. Albert and Eva share many other scars of middle age, and their relationship becomes serious, while Eva becomes Marianne's confidant. Meanwhile, with Ellen distancing herself from her mother in anticipation of leaving the house, Ellen's friend Chloe (Tavi Gevinson) surprisingly starts to spend more time with Eva. Just when Eva is adjusting to the new dynamics in her life, she is shocked to learn that Albert is Marianne's ex-husband, and Eva can't resist prodding Marianne to talk about all of Albert's faults.

Written and directed by Nicole Holofcener, Enough Said thrives on a sly streak of authenticity. A preponderance of richly drawn characters allows the film to explore multiple perspectives, creating a rich tapestry of connections grounded in reality. The movie features its fair share of coincidences and dramatic foibles to juice the comic moments. But within the context of the romantic comedy genre, Holofcener succeeds in creating a refreshingly original narrative, filled with real people muddling through life while tending to the scars created by past mistakes. The film is always funny, sometimes sorrowful, and consistently emotionally honest.

Themes of lingering pain and resentment, the awkwardness of dealing with ex-partners, and the fear that stalls a second commitment permeate through the story. The three central characters are dealing with the same post-relationship issues, but using different methods. Albert has retreated into an I-am-who-I-am mode unwilling to bend to what a woman may want to imagine him as. The excessively cultivated Marianne is not through sticking and twisting knives into her ex-husband's back, and needs a friend who listens. Eva is generally at the resigned stage, almost over her ex-husband and still willing to give romance a chance, but her emotional quest may be more about filling the void about to be created by her daughter Ellen's departure.

The multitude of characters worth caring about is startling. Holofcener works hard to surround Eva with people who ring true even in small roles. In relatively brief appearances, Eva's daughter's friend Chloe and Albert's daughter Tess emerge as intriguing young adults with enough personality and background to deserve their own films. The tension between Tess and Ellen is also tantalizing, raising questions about the roles of daughters, mothers and friends as children push through boundaries to become young adults. Meanwhile Eva's friends Sarah and Will may be the last married couple in Los Angeles, and the cracks in their union propagate outwards in real time.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus rises above her television quirkiness and succeeds in transforming her slightly- ditzy-but-trying-hard persona to the big screen. In his penultimate screen role before his untimely death, James Gandolfini combines pathos, sensitivity and burly masculine pride to create a most unusual romantic lead.

Prior entanglements can potentially torpedo future happiness opportunities. Enough Said is about the search for a delicate balance where the past is neither ignored nor allowed to dictate.

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