Enough Said (2013)
Written & Directed by Nicole Holofcener
James Gandolfini was often typecast as a tough guy, but that wasn’t really who he was outside of The Sopranos. He was an accomplished stage actor who performed in various roles, so moviegoers never quite got to see the full extent of what Gandolfini was capable of. Enough Said was released posthumously and acts as a hint of the directions his career could have gone had he not passed away. There’s not much similar to Tony Soprano beyond the actor and the character’s relationship issues. However, they are nowhere near as volatile as what Tony got up to. Instead, this is a sensitive, nuanced, character dramedy intended for a mature audience that wants a little more out of their movies.
Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is a massage therapist and single mom that feels very awkward about re-entering the dating scene. A trip with married friends to party in Pacific Palisades has her crossing paths with Marianne (Catherine Keener), an accomplished poet who wants to see about getting some massage services from Eva. Eva also gets introduced to Albert (Gandolfini), and he ends up asking Eva for her numbers. He’s a heavy-set guy, and at first, she’s just not physically attracted to him, but as they spend more time together, she begins to see what a great guy Albert is. Meanwhile, Marianne’s massage sessions consist of complaining about her ex-husband and his bad habits. Very quickly, Eva realizes Albert is the ex, and Marianne’s complaints begin to affect Eva’s burgeoning new relationship.
I’ve become an even bigger fan of Julia Louis-Dreyfus in the last decade or so, particularly for her work on Veep. I always enjoyed her as Elaine in Seinfeld, but Veep was a whole new level of comedy, and she nailed it. Dreyfus is cast pretty perfectly here; she’s always been able to play complicated women so well, characters who we empathize for but who can also be mean when they aren’t being mindful. Casting her against Gandolfini feels like a complete unknown when you see it on paper, but the chemistry is there on the screen. These two actors aren’t doing Shakespeare, you likely won’t have your world shaken by this film, but it’s such a wonderful adult picture that balances comedy and authentic human experience. The audience is put into Eva’s shoes as we see Albert in one light at the start and then slowly have our perspective, along with Eva’s, filtered by Marianne’s complaints.
The picture’s premise is very sitcom-like, but I think writer-director Nicole Holofcener pulls it off with a lot of skill. She never allows the movie to spill into farce which would have been a tonal mess. Instead, the comedy is dry and subtle. The humor comes out of the characters’ natural reactions and relationships, so nothing ever feels forced to get a laugh. I would argue that Gandolfini and Keener work better on film than Dreyfus. As much as I love her, it’s always been her television work and not her movies where the actress shines. This is the best film role I’ve seen her in yet, but a lot of that is because her co-stars are fantastic collaborators. The best moments are between Dreyfus and Gandolfini, who have remarkable chemistry.
As a fat guy myself, I appreciate movies that touch on male body issues. This doesn’t mean I think women’s body issues are given too much coverage; there should be more honestly. But often, men being overweight is glossed over or plays into the “funny fat guy” trope. I had dealt with a lot of insecurity over my weight for years, which undoubtedly affected how I saw myself when I was younger and dating. There were many times I unfairly believed a woman wouldn’t have an interest in me because I was heavy and never pursued it. Thankfully, I didn’t let that stand in my way when I met the woman who would become my wife. Even still, I will become conscious of my gut from time to time. In real life, Gandolfini had insecurities about his body, but I will always love that he allowed this to be a part of his work. I think men are judged in cruel ways that are different and not as obvious as the way women are. It makes me so sad that Gandolfini passed so early because I would love to have seen him in more of these types of films.
Enough Said is a delightful & light movie that doesn’t go for cheap laughs or stupid humor. This is a human comedy about the things real people struggle with, how we let other people cloud our judgment, and how we need to understand that we can’t ever find perfection. It just doesn’t exist in the ways society tells us it should. Flawed is perfect, and learning to love anyone, especially yourself, despite flaws is an integral part of genuinely maturing into adulthood.