The Films of 2013: Enough Said

Enough Said, the latest film by writer-director Nicole Holofcener, is comfortably situated within the world of white, slightly insulated southern Californians—a world that Holofcener presents with an ambiguity that can sometimes feel maddening.  While it could be argued that she is frequently satirizing her characters’ often staggering sense of privilege (one of them appears to expend most of her mental energy fussing over the arrangement of her living room furniture and complaining about her housekeeper), Holofcener's satirical edge is often so soft that can’t tell whether it's there at all.  That edge is also dulled significantly by Holofcener’s reliance on the kind of cheerfully banal incidental music that sometimes makes you feel like you’re watching a Sears commercial.

 But even if Enough Said doesn’t quite work as satire (and I’m not even quite sure that’s what Holofcener is going for), it’s an exceptionally good romantic farce in which its characters’ comic misunderstandings, squabbles, and behavioral quirks seem to have real stakes.  The scenarios that in other films provide convenient punchlines are here freighted with import, as Holofcener’s subjects, who are mostly adults approaching middle age, having already weathered a first round of marriage, divorce, and child-rearing, are made to consider the possibilities as well as the liabilities of investing in new romantic attachments.  When Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) watches her new flame Albert (James Gandolfini) casually polish off a bowl of guacamole before dinner, she’s not just annoyed, she’s terrified: that empty bowl ominously portends another thirty years of bad eating habits.  It’s in scenes like this—prickly, absurd, and somehow urgent—that Holofcener’s incisiveness as a comic writer shines.  Unlike so many romantic comedies that center on couples in their twenties or early thirties, Enough Said is world-weary and a bit cynical; its characters have already been around the block and aren’t sure if the pleasures of going around again are worth the hassles and the petty annoyances.  The film is sharp about zeroing in on those moments when the first blush of a new romance give way to uncertainty and doubt, and about the ways in which little, seemingly insignificant flaws can risk sabotaging otherwise happy relationships.

It’s also worth seeing if only for the pleasures of Julia Louis-Dreyfus, an actress whose impeccable ear for comedy, already well-known to those familiar with her television work, is on full display here.  She and Gandolfini, whose Albert is quieter and more guarded than her easily-rattled Eva, make an idiosyncratic romantic pairing unlike few we usually see in Hollywood comedies of this sort.  Even physically, they’re opposites; his large frame frequently dwarfs hers.  Yet the formidable talents of these actors are perfectly matched, and they both slide effortlessly along with Holofcener’s screenplay from comedy to drama and back again.  The naturalism of these performances, combined with Holofcener’s willingness to be honest about the fears and vulnerabilities of her characters (those who aren’t too busy wringing their hands over the furniture, that is), is enough to make us forgive this film its shortcomings.   

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