Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Love Shack

If you want proof that romantic comedies aren't just for young, idealistic people, Enough Said ought to be enough to justify your argument. It's been quite the surprise over-achiever the past month, defying all expectations for a film starring a former Seinfeld alum (seriously, have you SEEN Jason Alexander's career?) and from a director whose name most people would never recognize. Sadly, the biggest reason this movie has seen such success has to be the unfortunate passing of star James Gandolfini, the talented actor dying of a heart attack this past June. Crude as it may seem, many theaters who otherwise might have passed on this indie title grabbed it for the sole purpose of making a buck on his name. I'm certainly not condemning that decision - it's a business after all, and as it is the most financially successful title of director Nicole Holofcener's career, it's certainly not hard to agree with their logic.

It's no movie about nothing...
Regardless, I'm glad Enough Said has stuck around long enough for me (and hopefully, you) to go see it. The story follows single mother Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) as she goes day-to-day working as a masseuse, unhappy at the thought of her daughter (and best friend) moving away to college in just a few short months. At a party she is becomes acquainted with both professional poet Marianne (Catherine Keener), with whom she strikes up a friendship, and charming fellow divorcee Albert (Gandolfini), with whom she begins a romantic relationship. As she grows to know each person, she learns all the bad habits of their respective exes. But as she learns more and more about Marianne and Albert, she realizes that they have more in common with one another than she ever would have expected.
Eva forgot to turn off her phone before the movie.
What's probably most refreshing about Enough Said is its differing cast. We've seen this same brand of story dozens of times featuring younger actors and actresses learning about the past lives of their significant others, but rarely have we done so from the perspective of a single parent, and even less from an older perspective. Louis-Dreyfus has been acting on television for years, and witnessing her performance, it's surprising that this is her first major big-screen role since 1997's Deconstructing Harry. Sure, her work here will be familiar to anybody who has seen her during her decades-old career on television, but her easy charm and likable personality make for an easy leading actress. The supporting cast is full of familiar and appreciable sorts, from veterans Keener (a Holofcener regular), Toni Collette (rocking her native Australian accent for a change), and Ben Falcone, to a trio of talented young actresses - Eve Hewson, Tracey Fairaway and Tavi Gevinson - who all are given scene-stealing moments thanks to a script (also Holofcener) that makes great use of its supporting cast in propping up the romance between its two leads.
They know what makes a trip to the movies great.
And that's where the absolutely wonderful performance by Gandolfini comes in. He might not get as much respect as more handsome men with half of his talent (mainly because half of his post-Sopranos roles were remarkably similar), but here we have distinct evidence that this man is in fact one of the great actors of our era. As resident "giant teddy bear" and a hopeful romantic, Gandolfini's performance makes you fall as quickly as Eva, while making even his supposed faults endearing in their appearance. Albert is a role that many lesser actors would have gotten absolutely wrong, but not this man, who commands the screen by his mere appearance and surprising wealth of charm.
Because I needed a picture of somebody else.
The differences also extend to the story, which focuses on that limited time until your only child (and if you're single, your main companion in life) leaves you all alone to go away for school. Eva's difficulty with that event rests front and center, as she struggles to finish knitting a blanket and becoming closer to her daughter's best friend. Thankfully however, the film never tries to imply that Eva needs a man to complete her happiness, as it is pointed out that she has friends more than able to keep her occupied. Still, her loneliness and fear of not having anyone to share intimate items with is also present, and really complicates he relationships with Marianne and Albert, especially when it comes to the idea that she might have to sacrifice one relationship to be happy in the other. It's a nice twist on the genre, and one that Holofcener manages to tell without relying on added exposition, voice-overs or unnecessary dialogue. The director trusts her audience enough to understand what's going on without hand-holding, a move much appreciated by those tired of the overly-complicated cliches that make up the bulk of these kinds of tales.
In the end, it was the laugh that did it.
Even without the added attention from Gandolfini's untimely passing, Enough Said proves itself a funny, smart and unerringly sweet romance story geared towards an older generation but able to be enjoyed by any audience. Waitress is the last example of such a broad acceptability, although Holofcener's work never gets quite as dark as that under-seen classic. Instead, Enough Said is light-hearted enough to appeal to everyone, whether you're looking to recover from a bad day or simply want to keep those good feelings flowing. It's been silently running while bigger blockbusters have been taking up the bulk of everybody's attention, and while I wouldn't recommend this over absolute must-sees like Gravity or Captain Phillips, it's one you would be probably be surprised by should you give it a shot at your theater.

1 comment:

Richard J. Marcej said...

I saw this a few weeks ago and had been looking forward to it ever since seeing the trailer several months ago. If I recall, it was one of the better trailers I'd seen in awhile. It drew me in and am glad it had. I agree totally with you about Gandofini though Id like to add just how strong Louis-Dreyfus was. Sure, she's a fine TV comedienne (Seinfeld, Christine & Veep) but she proved, to me at least, that she has the chops to carry a smart, funny movie. I hope that producers will see this too. The best thing that I can say about this film, as I've told friends about it, it's one of best adult films I'd seen in quite some time. (though of course I have to then explain what I mean by adult) Also should add, two strong film appearances by Collette in 2013.