Enough Said is only playing in two theaters in Manhattan, the Angelika, and the AMC Lincoln Square uptown. It opened yesterday, and Allison and I bought tickets to the 7:10 show at the Angelika. Beforehand, we went out for Mexican right around the corner, so I stopped in at the theatre to pick up my tickets. It was already a madhouse, with a line snaking through the lobby space. “What are you all waiting for?” I asked someone. “Enough Said,” five people informed me. Allison and I came back after dinner and joined the ongoing snaking line for the 7:10 show. By the time we reached the theatre it was already so packed that we couldn’t find two seats together and had to split up. It was a sold out show. I’m so glad I saw it on its opening weekend, when the crowds turned out. It gives a real visceral sense of how well the film plays, something that would have felt quite different if I saw it at the tail-end of its run, on a Tuesday morning, with 5 other people in the audience. There’s nothing like a crowd, and there’s nothing like a crowd of random people that, through some magical process, gels into An Audience. It doesn’t happen often. Sometimes you go to sold-out shows and you leave just feeling annoyed at the rude-ness of humanity, and the bad behavior, and whatever, blah blah, you’re boring if you talk about that stuff too much. But sometimes … sometimes … a bunch of strangers become One. Those are the movie-going experiences I love the most.
Of course there is a sadness surrounding this film, even though it’s a sweet and sharp romantic comedy. It’s one of Gandolfini’s last film roles. It’s coming out after he’s died. His absence fills the film, an awareness of the hole he has left. The film ends rather abruptly, the screen goes to black, and as the credits start to roll, the words “FOR JIM” stand alone on the screen. A woman sitting two seats down from me whispered to her friend, “I’m feeling so sad.” There’s a strange sensation, watching him in this film. He’s so excellent in it, so easy with this material which was not in his wheelhouse career-wise (playing a romantic lead in a rom-com). But it suits him. He is a credible and effective romantic lead, and how refreshing it is because he seems like such a real guy. His charm is palpable, his sense of humor, all things that any woman not devoted to being a Real Housewife would fall for, or at least be drawn to. Real people fall in love all the time, although you’d never know it from the trends in Hollywood casting. Real people with weird teeth, pre-post-menopausal people, guys with big guts, whatever, you name it, people are hooking up. Feelings about not being young, not being svelte, not being television-ready are certainly a reality, and it’s hard to tune out the messages that Love Is Not For You Because You Wouldn’t Be Cast In a Hollywood Rom-Com, but people DO tune out those messages and find each other. Sometimes. Enough Said, thankfully, is not a Beauty and the Beast story, it is not about how a shallow woman learned to love the Big Lug. It’s nothing that cliche, although elements of that come into play. It’s written and directed by Nicole Holofcener, who has made a career out of examining and investigating social situations, love and friendship, angst (annoying, self-defeating, or actual), a search for meaning and connection. When Gandolfini, as Albert, says to Louis-Dreyfus, “I know this might sound corny … but you broke my heart.” you don’t feel a scripted line there. You feel his life, you feel his broken heart. And he says it with a small smile on his face, kind of a wince and a smile at the same time. It’s fucking real.
The whole set-up is a bit artificial, but I forgave it because the ultimate goal of the film is to examine how we fall in love, and how we also sabotage our feelings because we are trying to “protect” ourselves. Happens all the time. So. Albert meets Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) at a party. Eva is a massage therapist, who spends her days traveling around to clients, lugging her massage table. She was divorced a couple years back, and she has a daughter (Tracey Allen), who is getting ready to go away to college. In their first conversation at this party, Eva learns that Albert, too, has a daughter leaving for college, so they talk a little bit about that, and there’s a spark, there’s a teasing energy that is unmistakably flirtatious. Eva tells her friend Sarah (Toni Collette, who is hysterical here) about it later. What’s he like? Oh … he’s kind of fat … but … I liked him. They go out. They have dinner. They talk the whole time. He drops her off. They don’t kiss, but you know it’s a matter of time. They click. It’s natural. The way you sometimes just click with another human being. The romance unfolds with such a good eye/ear for those beginning moments, the awkwardness, the uncertainty, the sort of “Geez, will he/she like what I look like naked” thought process, always going on, and then when you throw caution to the wind and get physical. Because what the hell, who the hell cares about your big belly or your cellulite? There is sex to be had. We like each other. Let’s do it, let’s fall in love. Enough Said is so good, and so accurate, about the Beginnings. The tentative getting to know one another, the gentle way of interrogating someone (“you have 80 bottles of mouthwash … why?”), and the way we start to trust. Louis-Dreyfus and Gandolfini make a compelling couple. You get why he likes her and vice versa. You can SEE them start to let their guards down. He works at a television archive, and there’s a scene where he gives her a tour of his facility, and he tells her about what he does. Stops himself at one point and says, “I’m sorry, am I boring you?” And she says, surprised, “No! It’s interesting!” So real. They bond about having daughters going off to college. When they finally have sex, it’s great.
To complicate matters, slightly artifically, at the same party where Eva met Albert, she also met this fascinating kind of fabulous woman named Marianne (regular Holofcener muse Catherine Keener). Marianne is a poet. An actual poet, who “makes her living” at poetry and Eva is drawn to her, somehow, and Marianne becomes a new massage client. They become “friends”, although their friendship is mostly Eva listening to Marianne bitch and moan about her gross ex-husband, who had a big belly, refused to lose weight, was gross with guacamole, and was, in general, a disgusting bore. Bad in bed, too. Of course you know immediately that there is a coincidence at work here, that Albert is the man Marianne is talking about, but Eva is a bit slow on the uptake, and once she gets it, she does not tell Marianne that she is dating that guy. As the romance unfolds on the one side, a sort of one-sided “friendship” develops between Eva and Marianne on the other side. Eva knows there’s something wrong about it, but she can’t seem to disentangle herself, and also, as she tells Sarah – that hanging out with Marianne and hearing her complain about her ex is almost like having “your very own Trip Advisor”. Wouldn’t it be helpful if we could talk to our brand new beloved’s exes and see what the complaints are? Wouldn’t it help us to make our decisions?
Clearly not always. Eva learns the hard way.
Louis-Dreyfus, who has rarely starred in full-length films, is wonderful as Eva, awkward, sometimes heartbreaking, and (as was always true in her role as Elaine in “Seinfeld”), willing to come off as unsympathetic. Good for her. There’s one pretty brutal dinner party where Eva, a little bit tipsy, starts criticizing Albert to her friends, in front of him. She thinks she’s being funny and fond, but what she’s actually doing is picking on him. Diminishing him. Albert sees what’s happening and doesn’t understand why she’s doing it, what has changed. It’s painful. Love is scary so we can talk ourselves out of it and that’s what Eva is doing. The more she hears about how gross Marianne found her ex, the more she starts to look at him with a critical eye.
There are details in the script that I loved.
– Sarah’s penchant for rearranging her furniture on a daily basis. So funny. Her husband (played by the always-wonderful Ben Falcone) comes into the room, looks at the couches and chairs, and says, “Again?”
– Catherine Keener’s very funny performance as a totally humorless woman.
– The growing bond between Eva and Chloe (Tavi Gevinson), her daughter’s best friend. It’s subtle, and it happens almost without you noticing it. With the impending departure of her daughter, Eva is feeling lost. Her daughter is pulling away from her, in preparation for college, and it’s painful on both sides. She bonds with Chloe in a more girly-girly way, sharing confidences and having pedicures, and Eva’s daughter is finally like, “Chloe, can I please have my mom back?”
– There’s an ongoing bit with one of Eva’s massage clients. There’s a long steep flight of steps up to his apartment, and he always stands at the top of the stairs, smiling at her, as she struggles her way up with the massage-table – “and he never once has offered to help!” We see this scene play out 3 or 4 times over the course of the film, and so we’re sort of set up to judge this guy as ill-mannered, boorish. You can’t offer to help the lady with the table? What is your problem? Finally, of course, the moment comes when she asks, halfway up the stairs, “Could you give me a hand with this?” The way he reacts is not what we have been set up to expect, and it’s a beautiful moment. It’s a joke that was set up from the first 5 minutes of the film and the way it was resolved was satisfying and affirming.
– The shot where Eva and her ex-husband take their daughter to the airport to fly off to college is killer. I was a mess.
The scenes between Louis-Dreyfus and Gandolfini are a feast, for those who love the give-and-take of acting. It is a pleasure to watch these two people onscreen together. A pleasure mixed with sorrow, because of the knowledge that he is no longer with us.
Thank goodness Enough Said exists, at least in terms of Gandolfini’s legacy. It adds nuance and shadings to our understanding of who he was as an actor. And as the days go on, it becomes more and more apparent what we have lost.