By Savannah Wood
Imagine for a moment that it’s breakfast time, and you’re sitting at the table with the love of your life as they eat a bowl of cereal, when all of a sudden you notice that their jaw clicks when they eat. Maybe it doesn’t bother you so much at first, but once you’ve noticed it, it’s cemented in your consciousness forever, and before long you can hardly bear to eat around them anymore–all you can focus on anymore is that irritating clicking sound. Do you love them a little less for their defective mandible? Does tolerating it day by day make you resent them in time? Enough Said delves into that painfully relatable dilemma, using people’s little idiosyncrasies as a platform for an over-arching lesson on life, love, and perspective.
The film opens with the protagonist, a weary masseuse named Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), laboriously lugging a comically large case of massage equipment from client to client. Right off the bat, we are given a painting of a woman literally and metaphorically weighed down by baggage. Eva, a divorcée and mother to a college-bound daughter, has been burned before, and she’s not anxious to seek out any kindling for her all but extinguished love life. But a chance meeting kicks the film into romantic comedy mode, and it’s all formula from here on out–Eva encounters Albert, played by the late, great James Gandolfini (of Sopranos fame, who passed away in June this year). Gandolfini, endearing in the utmost with a bit of scruff and a genuine, crinkly smile, charms Eva and the audience with his teddy-bear sincerity and self-deprecating flirtation. We all fall in love with Gandolfini’s warmth and are reminded of his tremendous versatility and talent. We bittersweetly appreciate Albert for all his imperfections even more so with the the loss of Gandolfini, and are reminded again that the world lost a truly remarkable actor and man this summer.
As her relationship with Albert develops, a subplot blossoms about Eva’s burgeoning friendship with a new client, the all-too-perfect Marianne (Catherine Keener). Marianne is a successful poet, has a beautiful house and garden, and no cellulite–her one failing is her seeming inability to quit trashing her ex. The two women keep an ongoing dialogue about their love lives and exes, and through classic rom com coincidence and misunderstanding, Eva discovers the object of Marianne’s derision is none other than her own beau. And thus the film’s central question is posed: if you could preemptively learn every piece of baggage someone has to bring to the proverbial massage table, would you do it? Could you protect yourself from the pain of the inevitable turn of disillusionment most relationships seem to take? Would that kind of knowledge and additional perspective be a load off your shoulders, or a heavier burden to bear?
Enough Said, written and directed by Nicole Holofcener, works its way into our hearts at first using Gandolfini as the vessel and then, towards the end, has built upon itself to the point that we find that we genuinely do care, oddly enough. It gives its fair share of laughs, but nothing felt forced. It feels more like a friend making you laugh in the middle of a conversation than the desperate dancing-monkey vibe a lot of romantic comedies play for. In fact, there’s nothing overly flattering or showy about this film; no one went to great lengths to glamorize the characters or their relationships, the costuming is unexaggerated, and the dialogue off-the-cuff and natural. And it works. What we’re left with is a real, organic romantic comedy that, while certainly playing out within the confines of its genre, is surprisingly heartening. Enough Said gives us an unaffected glimpse of a fictionalized plot but a realistic relationship. It pats us on the shoulder and breaks it to us that real life isn’t a fairy tale, but that doesn’t mean it has to be sad or gritty. A rather unique message is driven home that life and relationships are about compromise and perspective rather than easy solutions and superficial charm.
As Rocky says of Adrian: “she’s got gaps, I’ve got gaps, together we fill gaps”. At the end of the day, you’re not looking for a magic fix–you’re looking for someone with the patience and raw materials to fill life’s potholes. And that’s not a bad takeaway, all things considered.
Enough Said opens in Austin on September 27. Also starring Toni Collette, Ben Falcone, and Jessica St. Clair. 1 hour 33 minutes.