DVD Release Date: January 14, 2014
Theatrical Release Date: September 20, 2013 limited; October 4 wider.
Rating: PG-13 (for sexual content and some language)
Genre: Comedy-Drama
Run Time: 96 min
Directors: Nicole Holofcener
Cast: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, James Gandolfini, Catherine Keener, Toni Collette, Tracey Fairaway, Tavi Gevinson, Ben Falcone

Writer/Director Nicole Holofcener turns out quietly authentic slice-of-life portraits, each with an emotional power that sneaks up on you. Best described as LA's answer to Woody Allen (but more melancholic than neurotic), Holofcener (Please Give, Friends With Money) tells stories that are at once specific to her city's culture while also connecting to a universal human experience.

Her latest is Enough Said, a character study about navigating middle-aged dating post-divorce. It stars the late, great James Gandolfini (TV's The Sopranos) in his final lead role, and is as poignantly observed as anything Holofcener's done. It doesn't resort to infidelity, addictions, or abuse, but simply examines the all-too-common reasons why many marriages fail.

Holofcener displays a depth of understanding – revealed in part through specific, insightful humor – that's equalled by depths of compassion and grace for genuinely flawed, at times narcissistic, people. She's keenly aware that we often repeat and stay in egocentric behavior not because we're selfish but because we're afraid – and that fear creates an inability to be self-aware, or heal.

Eva (four-time Emmy winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus (TV's Seinfeld, Veep)) is an LA masseuse whose love life has been non-existent in the decade since her divorce. With her only daughter's impending transition to college, Eva becomes more intentional about dating, agreeing to dinner with Albert (Gandolfini) who she isn't initially attracted to, mostly because of his weight.

Attractive woman falls for a schlub: sort of a typical male fantasy, but what we have here is a female director staging the male fantasy from a woman's perspective. She falls for him not just because the script needs her to (ala most Judd Apatow comedies or male-directed Manic Pixie Dream Girl concoctions), but because he's an interesting, intelligent guy. Holofcener gets what many male directors lazily miss: her schlub has actual depth, relying on more than meet-cutes, one-liners, or contrived romantic gestures.

Most male directors invent scenarios in which the guy dumb-lucks himself into a relationship with a gorgeous woman, despite his arrested development. But here, Albert – even with his negatives and quirks – is a smart, witty, and sensitive soul, with a humble confidence and strength. You can see why Eva's not initially attracted to him, and then why she eventually is.

The appeal here goes well beyond a "will they or won't they" formula (and given how events unfold, their destiny is not assured). Enough Said delves into the psychological hang-ups that cause otherwise well-intended people to sabotage a very good thing, even love. Much of this is tapped into through Eva's friendship with a new client, Marianne (Catherine Keener, Where the Wild Things Are and a Holofcener regular). Both divorced, they vent about their failed marriages.

While Eva's divorce has proven amicable, Marianne has nothing but bitterness toward her ex. Marianne's vitriol begins to poison the well for Eva, causing Eva to view Albert in adverse ways she wouldn't have otherwise. Eva mistakes Marianne's intelligence for wisdom (when it's actually obnoxious) and begins to pull back in passive-aggressive ways, leaving Albert confused, hurt, and played as a fool.

This dynamic not only drives the dramatic stakes but, more importantly, gives Eva complexity. We root for her even as she does some unlikable things, making choices that will break trust. But we empathize because the root of those bad decisions comes from the need to guard her heart. The implicit thesis here is that we can end up protecting ourselves too much, from people who don't deserve our walls and may actually be the ones we should be letting in. And when we mitigate risk to the extreme, it's a sure sign that we’ve never really healed from our past.

Did I mention all this is funny? Holofcener floats through these murky waters with a natural buoyancy, somehow keeping an overall light tone while maintaining an integrity to the film's relational conflicts. She accomplishes most of this through her cast. Together, they find a sympathetic humor in awkwardness, selfishness, impatience, and even deceit. Holofcener allows her leads, each of whom forged two of TV's most iconic characters, long overdue opportunities to show their range in a feature film.

Beneath her boisterous persona, Louis-Dreyfus shows a vulnerability – even fragility – we've not seen from her before. She's broken, we sympathize, but in protecting herself she's also hurting the people who matter to her. Gandolfoni is a humble softie, the complete opposite of his famous alter ego Tony Soprano. He gives a beautiful swan song to a career cut short, and makes his now-lost talent all the more appreciated. The two share a great chemistry, one that has an ease with awkwardness; a lack of pretense that comes with age.

All of Eva's poor decisions are a result of the fact that while she's moved on from her first marriage, she has never really healed. Enough Said shows us that you have to be willing to be hurt, or else your self-protective instincts will eventually hurt others – especially the ones you love. And when trust is broken, sincere words are no longer enough; only time and actions are.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol Content: Wine and champagne are casually consumed in a few scenes.
  • Language/Profanity: Four S-words, two B-words, an H-word, two uses of the Lord's name in vain. The B-word for a male erection is used three times, and two other penis references as well. The term "dyke" is used as an insult.
  • Sexual Content/Nudity: No nudity and little sexual content, but several discussions about sex – both between adults and between teenagers. Teens discuss having sex, including threesomes. Discussions of teens losing virginity; one adult affirms it, another does not. Scenes of adults kissing. Adults in bed together (naked under the covers, but not seen). Sex between adults is attempted once, under covers, but awkwardly. Adults discuss their sex lives. Scenes of massage therapy, with people being massaged while naked (but covered), massaging naked backs. One man's groin bulge seen underneath a blanket while being massaged.
  • Violence/Other: None, although people do speak to each other with malice and intent to hurt.

Publication date: October 4, 2013