Sometimes the big screen is actually smaller.
Enough Said, the latest low-key comedy-of-manners-and-morals indie from accomplished writer-director Nicole Holofcener (Please Give, Friends With Money), pairs two television icons — The Sopranos' James Gandolfini and Seinfeld's (and, okay, Veep's) Julia Louis-Dreyfus — in more delicate, human-scale roles than the ones that made them famous.
Louis-Dreyfus is Eva, a self-employed masseuse, and Gandolfini is Albert, curator of a television history museum. They are each entering middle age a divorced, single, shared-custody parent of a soon-to-be-college-bound daughter.
When Eva and Albert meet at a party, it's not love at first sight. She doesn't even find the balding, overweight Albert attractive. But each feels their options shrinking, and a dutiful first date yields some real if very tentative chemistry.
Eva's doubts are magnified by her relationship with a new client she meets the same night she meets Albert, an alluring but severe poet played by Holofcener regular Catherine Keener, against whose opinions and pronouncements Eva measures her fledgling relationship with Albert. There's a plot contrivance binding these relationships that feels a little unnecessary. But it's a conceit a lesser film would build its whole world upon. Here, it's closer to something that just happens.
Enough Said gives Gandolfini and Louis-Dreyfus each, rather shockingly, their only really good lead film roles, and they make a fetching, deeply relatable couple.
There's extra poignancy, of course, in Gandolfini's performance. The actor died this summer, at age 51. This appears to be his penultimate performance, and his final lead, and discussions of Albert's weight and health carry an unintended extra sting. If it wasn't already apparent that Gandolfini was one of the best actors of his generation — and his towering Tony Soprano pretty much answers that — playing so far against type, and so beautifully, provides added evidence. Playing a sheepish fifty-something single guy made even more self-conscious as a result of an unhappy marriage, Gandolfini gives a warm, sensitive, immensely satisfying performance. It's a glimpse at an alternate career that now will never be, as a savior for real-world, grown folks' rom-coms.
And Louis-Dreyfus not only carries her half of the romantic main plot but also is equally fine in a subplot that could have easily bloomed into its own film, about the mutually needy relationship she develops with her daughter's neglected best friend.
Though far from flawless, this is a fine film about such underexplored topics as middle-aged courtship and middle-aged sex, about how making peace with others' (perceived) imperfections can be less about settling than about generosity and wisdom.
Opens Friday, September 27th
Ridgeway Cinema Grill