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Non-Review Review: Enough Said

Enough Said is a charming little romantic comedy starring Julia Louise-Dreyfuss as Eva. Eva is a divorced parent who finds herself in the relationship with another charming divorcée, navigating the difficulties of dating-after-marriage and trying to come to terms with her daughter’s impending departure to attend college. Through what another character describes as “an unbelievable coincidence”, our protagonist finds herself in a delightfully awkward romantic situation, trapped between two people very close to her.

Enough Said owes a debt to the classic romantic farce – the comedy of errors and manners – but the humour here is a lot more focused and character-driven. Once the plot becomes clear, it seems like Enough Said might devolve into a slapstick comedy about timing and awkward double entendres, but it’s to the credit of writer and director Nicole Holofcener that the film instead remains tightly focused on Eva and the people around her.

Stepping up...

Stepping up…

There’s something undeniably sweet about the romance at the heart of Enough Said. Julia Louise-Dreyfuss and James Gandolfini are a surreal enough match that the awkward interactions between the pair feel organic and natural. Cautious dinner-table conversation and awful jokes feel like genuine flirtations, as if both parties are uncertain what to make of the date sitting opposite them.  Neither Dreyfuss nor Gandolfini are quite what you would describe as “romantic leads”, making the union seem genuinely quirky rather than completely inevitable.

They don’t seem perfectly matched to one another, and that’s where a lot of the charm comes from. Dreyfuss has navigated these waters before, in her short-lived sit-com The New Adventures of Old Christine, but she plays the part very well. Dreyfuss is all wit and banter, but there’s a clear sense of longing and discomfort there, a feeling of insecurity that never feels forced or foregrounded. Dreyfuss plays Eva as a character who hasn’t quite acknowledged her own issues, and who is trying to deal with the changes in her life by completely ignoring them.

No mean feet...

No mean feet…

However, Gandolfini is cast firmly against type. Gandolfini has always been an actor with more range than he ever got credit for. His performance in The Mexican, for example, was a nuanced and thoughtful subversion of his stereotypical tough-guy typecast screen persona – a performance far stronger than the movie around it. Gandolfini has always been strongest playing against type, subverting expectations – as the Senior Military Assistant to the U.S. Secretary of Defense in In the Loop or as a suffering father in Not Fade Away or the tender Carol in Where the Wild Things Are.

Gandolfini should not be a romantic lead. He’s balding. He’s so tall that he towers over his diminutive co-star. His weight is something of a plot point. Sporting an impressive beard here, he hardly fits the idealised “romantic leading man over fifty” image. He’s no Robert Redford. Of course, that’s entirely the point, and Gandolfini does impressive work as Eva’s new boyfriend, Albert. He’s tender and sincere and funny and heartwarming.

Maybe they should pass around the (l)aughter dinner mints...

Maybe they should pass around the (l)aughter dinner mints…

Gandolfini and Dreyfuss are the best part of Enough Said. They play perfect well off one another, but they also handle the dramatic heavy-lifting with gusto. Dialogue that might seem overly sentimental instead seems entirely honest and completely sincere. Both Eva and Albert appear vulnerable and cautious, but that is tempered with an electric enthusiasm and excitement at the potential offered. The pair play well off one another, each giving the other enough room to develop well-rounded and nuanced characters.

The pair make up for some of the weaknesses in Holofcener’s script. Characters and plot threads seem to loosely weave in and out of the film, forgotten about as soon as they become inconvenient. The film’s final act brushes aside any dangling plot threads beyond Eva and Albert, leaving the audience to infer the fate of disappeared characters like Catherine Keener’s Marianna or Ben Falcone’s Will. That puts a lot of weight on Gandolfini and Dreyfuss, and the film only really works because Eva and Albert are really all the audience cares about as the film moves towards its finalé.

Safety blanket...

Safety blanket…

To be fair, Holofcener’s script does have a rather ingenious centre gimmick – an effect (if predictable) second-act plot twist. It upsets the character dynamics enough keep everything interesting, and gives the story a bit of an edge. That plot twist feels like something that could easily have come from a classic romantic comedy, and it’s not too difficult to reimagine Enough Said as a romantic farce – lots of running around, lots of wordplay, heightened situations. Instead, Enough Said remains anchored and genuine, using that reveal as a stepping stone to interesting romantic drama, while acknowledging the absurdity of it all.

The humour is wry and well-observed, with a cast well able to carry it off. Dreyfuss and Gandolfini have great timing, but they’re supported by a wealth of fantastic performers – including Toni Collette and Catherine Keener. Enough Said doesn’t over-stay its welcome, running just over an hour-and-a-half. It’s a rare treat.

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