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Thread: ENOUGH SAID (Nicole Holofcener 2013)

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    ENOUGH SAID (Nicole Holofcener 2013)

    Nicole Holofcener: ENOUGH SAID (2013)


    The triumph of the willful and foolish

    In Enough Said, the somewhat-auteurish writer-director Nicole Holofcener narrows down her material and works with a plot full of parallelism. The ostensible protagonist, Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus of "Seinfeld"), a masseuse, meets Albert (James Gandolfini) and Marianne (Catherine Keener), at the same party. What she does not know is that they were once married. Albert asks Eva on a date. Marianne has Eva come to give her a massage. Both "relationships" work out. Marianne, a poet, becomes friends with Eva as well as her client. Eva and Albert hit it off from the start and begin to care a lot about each other. This is a slow burn of a farce. Gradually the embarrassing revelation comes. Little by little Eva learns from things Marianne says that Albert is her ex-husband. And the things she says are derogatory. Instead of choosing between the new boyfriend and the friend and client who speaks ill of him, Eva goes on seeing both Albert and Marianne, a thoroughly bad idea. She is a stupid and annoying woman. Typically for Holofcener, she seems to get away with it.

    And what of Marianne? Her criticisms of Albert are petty. But as Albert later tells Eva, it is she, Eva, who has allowed Marianne to poison their relationship. When she knew Marianne was talking about Albert, she should have excused herself and let Marianne find another masseuse, and another friend (though apparently she hasn't any).

    Eva has a daughter, Ellen (Tracey Fairaway) about to go to college. So does Marianne and, naturally, so does Albert: it's their daughter, Tess (Eve Hewson). The two daughters are supplemented by Eva's daughter's best friend Chloe (Tavi Gevinson), an interesting girl who hangs out a lot and bonds with Eva and seems to prefer her to her own mother. Here again perhaps Eva is guilty of a misstep in arousing her daughter's jealousy. Tess and Ellen are both about to go away to college, a further bond between Eva and Albert. But this situation and these girls just seem sketched in. It's hard to feel they matter much, except to show what age group this is.

    There's also Toni Collette as Eva's best friend, and Eva's ex-husband, who seems a decent fellow. Holofcener's 2006 Friends with Money has multiple characters and a complicated, diffuse plot. I described it as "TV writing." Her 2010 Please Give has a couple with a profitable business; a woman who works in a spa; various other calculated and complicated relationships. They lead to some wry, funny dialogue and good, uncomfortable scenes, though things became too ugly toward the end.

    Enough Said, as usual, has the feel of TV writing. Its action is the more maddening because it is concentrated on Eva. Albert and Marianne are merely her unfortunate appendages. She simply keeps smiling awkwardly and failing, over and over, to make the right choice -- presumably, to make her excuses and stop giving Marianne massages, being her friend, and listening to her accuse Albert of dysfunctional eating, and bad sex. The keen social detail is very American, middle class white American. The willful, selfish young people. The worry about food and weight. The indecisiveness. These things may be more fun in the earlier films than here, being there embedded in multiple characters and collective scenes and spot-on dialogue. Enough Said is dominated by Eva's central mistake.

    Other reviewers find Eva and Albert heartwarming and real. Yes, this is a rueful, middle-aged, divorcee rom-com. Yes, one could make the mistake Eva makes. Or could one? It's really a spectacular mistake. She and Albert have got a great thing going. How could she let Marianne ruin it? So what if Marianne has no other friends? Joni Mitchell likes her poetry. She has a beautiful house (which she got from Albert). She'll survive.

    This is the late James Gandolfini's second to last film, and for that one has to see it. Even if, despite Albert's character having a belly and not being superficially attractive, this is a role somebody else might have played and not an important one, Gandalfini brings a touching, in context heartbreaking, warmth to it. It may be, as some seem to think, that the character of Eva is bearable because Albert's character is lovable and cares for her. But I was rooting for him more when he kicked Eva out of his life than in the indulgent later scene where he seems to be allowing her back. Must Holofcener always forgive bad choices?

    Enough Said's "more mainstream" (that is, simpler and more focused) plot and the presence of Gandolfini have led to enthusiastic reviews -- not that Holofcener hasn't always gotten them -- and an appropriately more mainstream audience. Personally I've never found one of her plots and main characters more maddening. But maybe that's a good thing; better than being left indifferent. And Holofcener's main point here is that one cant be advised by someone else about a potential mate, which is certainly true. In the foolishness she depicts in her films, there is wisdom.

    Enough Said, 93 mins., debuted at Toronto and opened in the US 18 Sept. 2013; UK release 18 Oct.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-08-2014 at 01:28 PM.


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