Wednesday, October 02, 2013

James Gandolfini Dates Julia Louis-Dreyfus In His Fine Final Film ENOUGH SAID

Now playing at an indie art house theater near you:

ENOUGH SAID (Dir. Nicole Holofcener, 2013)

It’s a testament to the talents of Julia Louis-Dreyfus and the late great James Gandolfini that I forgot about Elaine Bendis and Tony Soprano, i.e. their iconic characters from Seinfeld and The Sopranos, while watching Nicole Holofcener’s newest indie rom com ENOUGH SAID.

Sure, Louis-Dreyfus has some of Elaine’s neurotic neediness, and Gandolfini shares some of Tony’s unhealthy appetites, but the people they portray here are grounded in a more stable sensibility. A sensibility that will be recognizable to those who’ve seen Holofcener’s previous movies that have largely dealt with modern women coming to terms with, well, being modern women, and always have Catherine Keener in them (see: WALKING AND TALKING, LOVELY & AMAZING, FRIENDS WITH WOMEN, PLEASE GIVE).

Here Keener plays Gandolfini’s ex-wife, a successful poet (successful enough to know Joni Mitchell) who hires Louis-Dreyfus to be her masseuse after befriending her at a party. Unknown to Keener, Louis-Dreyfus has begun dating Gandolfini, who she met at the same party.

So when Keener complains at length about her ex-husband during their sessions, Louis-Dreyfus is making all kinds of mental notes about her new beau’s faults. Louis-Dreyfus wants a playbook to guide her through the emotional minefield of when dating somebody gets serious, and for a time Keener unknowingly serves that purpose.

This hilariously comes to a head when Louis-Dreyfus can’t help picking on him about such things as the calories in guacamole at a dinner party with Toni Collette and Ben Falcone (Melissa McCarthy’s husband that you may remember as the Air Marshall in BRIDESMAIDS). On the uneasy drive home, Gandolfini remarks: “Why do I feel like I just spent the evening with my ex-wife?”

Despite its rom com-style plotting – i.e. one half of a couple is keeping something from the other until they get way in over their head – ENOUGH SAID doesn’t strain for laughs, or go for cheap one-liners. Holofcener, who wrote the screenplay, simply wants to spend some time with some flawed folks who are making their way through a transitional period.

There’s somewhat of a misshapen subplot concerning Louis-Dreyfus’s daughter (Tracey Fairaway) leaving home for college, with the mother over compensating by becoming way too close to her daughter’s best friend (Tracey Fairaway), but it doesn’t clutter up the main storyline.

Although Holofcener definitely has her own thing going on, in tone and relationship perspective, I was reminded of Jay and Mark Duplass’s 2010 comedy CYRUS, which also dealt with a couple who met at a party and have an obstacle or two to overcome, and also had Catherine Keener as the ex-wife. In that and in ENOUGH SAID, both very likable low key indies, I rooted strongly for the leads to stick it out.

The chemistry Gandolfini and Louis-Dreyfus have together is pleasing yet fleeting as we can’t help but be aware that the man is no longer with us. We can at least take a little comfort in the fact that Gandolfini has two more films in the can (small parts in NICKY DUECE and ANIMAL RESCUE set for next year), but that this is his last lead performance is very sad indeed.

ENOUGH SAID will perhaps be remembered more for that than its content, but however people come to it, most will find that it’s a thoughtful and witty take on the insecurities involved with taking a second chance at love. It really shows how good Gandolfini and Louis-Dreyfus were together working with Holofcener's moody material that that’s the real takeaway.

More later...

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