I loved Nicole Holofcener's witty and wise romantic comedy "Enough Said" for many reasons. Here are the top three:
1. It recognizes that in relationships, people are neither good nor bad, but a combination of positive and negative attributes. There are, however, good and bad combinations of people, and romantic chemistry remains one of the great unexplained mysteries of the universe.
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"Enough Said"★ ★ ★ ½
Starring: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, James Gandolfini, Catherine Keener, Toni Collette, Tracey Fairaway
Directed by: Nicole Holofcener
Other: A 20th Century Fox release. Rated PG-13 for language, sexual situations. 93 minutes
2. It contains my favorite dialogue of 2013 so far.
The main characters -- two middle-aged divorced parents with daughters about to leave for college -- talk the way two real middle-aged divorced parents with daughters about to leave for college talk. A little wittier perhaps, but direct and unguarded. These adults don't have time to hide their feelings and second-guess themselves the way younger dating couples do.
3. After a long career playing gangsters, thugs and heavies, the late James Gandolfini finally gets to play his most endearing character: a regular guy named Albert, a slightly overweight, self-admitted slob with no pretenses or hidden agendas.
He might even sound boring, but Gandolfini, who died in June, imbues this man with so much humanity and charisma and so many flaws that it's impossible not to love him, warts and all.
Albert attends a party where he meets divorced masseuse Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) who has prematurely announced to a friend that she doesn't find anyone at the gathering attractive.
Hearing that, Albert replies to Eva that he doesn't find anyone at the party attractive, either. Then they exchange looks.
The chemistry between Albert and Eva is immediate and obvious. Even before they realize it, we can tell these two will get along just fine. Maybe. If Eva can only listen to her heart and not other people.
The central story in "Enough Said" belongs to Eva. She spends her work days pressing other people's flesh, listening to their petty life stories. She loves her college-bound daughter Ellen (Tracey Fairaway), but remains oblivious to how her growing affection for Ellen's emotionally needy best friend Chloe (Tavi Gevinson) strains the mother-daughter connection.
When Eva meets a professional poet named Marianne (Holofcener regular Catherine Keener), it changes her life.
Marianne hires Eva for massages, and Eva begins to place the poet on a pedestal. Marianne only has one negative characteristic: she really dishes the dirt on her clumsy, sexually inept ex-husband and his weird way of avoiding onions.
Eva periodically Skypes with her best friend Sarah (Toni Collette, allowed to utilize her real Australian accent), a psychotherapist with a compulsion to constantly rearrange her furniture. She also suffers from an irrational fear of firing her inept housekeeper.
The humorously realistic characters are complemented by well-drawn daughters. In addition to Eva's even-keeled Ellen, Albert has college-bound Tess (Bono's daughter Eve Hewson), a snob who bad-mouths Ellen's college choice and stridently tells her dad she will never marry.
"I hate kids!" she barks.
"Right about now, we agree on something," Albert replies.
"Enough Said" marks the iconoclastic Holofcener's broadest and most mainstream work, and that's not a bad thing. Eva appears to be on the road to romantic happiness, until her blossoming relationship with Albert succumbs to a sitcom-like plot device that would significantly dent any other filmmaker's work.
Here, Holofcener gets away with narrative murder by presenting this development not as a manipulative device, but just another example of how people -- the real kind -- sometimes make stupid decisions, because it's the price of being human.