“Enough Said” is Nicole Holofcener’s most traditional film to date, but its surprisingly conventional plot, so different from Holofcener’s usual uniquely imagined works, doesn’t fight against it.
The film – about the relationship between two middle-aged divorcees (Julia Louis-Dreyfus and the late James Gandolfini) – is for all intents and purposes a romantic comedy. But Holofcener (“Please Give,” “Lovely & Amazing,” “Walking and Talking”) infuses the often shallow genre with genuine emotion as well as her refreshing brand of adult humor: The movie is funny but never silly despite its somewhat contrived premise. She also gets two outstanding performances from her leads, who are so engaging you would gladly watch them together for hours after the movie is over.
Louis-Dreyfus, who just took home an Emmy for her performance on HBO’s “Veep,” plays Eva, a massage therapist in Los Angeles bracing herself for a bad case of empty nest syndrome (her daughter is poised to head east to college). She lugs her heavy massage table from appointment to appointment trying to stave off a heavy heart, but the thought of what’s coming weighs her down even more than her gear.
One night she goes to a party with friends (Toni Collette and Ben Falcone) and meets two intriguing people: Marianne (Holofcener stalwart Catherine Keener), a friendly if slightly spacy poet Eva immediately likes, and Albert (Gandolfini), a nice guy who later invites her out on a date. Eva is wary at first – he’s kind of fat, she thinks – but Albert, whose daughter is also heading off to college, turns out to be funny and kind and thoughtful and sweet, and he makes Eva laugh. Meanwhile, Marianne quickly becomes Eva’s favorite client as well as a friend.
The twist, of course, is that Marianne and Albert used to be married, a fact Eva eventually discovers but can’t bring herself to deal with because she’s nervous about the new relationship and, in the interest of self-preservation, wants any and all warnings about a guy she really likes.
She also wants Marianne in her life; in Holofcener’s world, female friendship is as sacred as romantic love, a theme she’s returned to with great success in her films. Soon, after listening to Marianne’s complaints about her ex – he eats guacamole in an appalling way! He doesn’t even have end tables by his bed! – Eva starts to view Albert through Marianne’s critical eyes and begins to question her attraction.
What makes this material work so well is the chemistry between Louis-Dreyfus and Gandolfini; the terrific scene in which they embark on their first date is delightfully awkward and amusing. Other moments are startling in their realism: When was the last time you saw a character ask another for a good look at his teeth when they were in bed?
And if Gandolfini doesn’t break your heart, you haven’t got one. After his iconic portrayal of Tony Soprano, the actor didn’t get a chance to play many roles like this one, and he’s so comfortable and compelling in this good man’s shoes, you will be crushed by his death all over again. The fact that Holofcener could see the potential in him to play Albert, who’s been damaged by love but is still willing to trust a stranger who can hurt him badly, is an excellent reminder of just how sharp of a filmmaker she is. If only more romantic comedies played out as charmingly and perceptively as this one.