The line between television and film is almost non-existent these days. Movie stars can find homes on the small screen and so it only makes sense that TV stars can find success on the silver screen. And when it comes to TV stars, it doesn’t get any better than Julia Louis-Dreyfus and the late James Gandolfini, who have a total of 7 Primetime Emmy Awards between them. These two actors are certified legends; they created iconic roles in the classic series Seinfeld and The Sopranos and became household names.
It’s not just that Louis-Dreyfus and Gandolfini have been involved in successful shows but that their success is long lasting. Louis-Dreyfus redefined the feminist comedy on three vastly different comedy series (Seinfeld, The New Adventures of Old Christine and Veep). Gandolfini was one of the founding fathers of the anti-hero genre with his complicated portrayal of mob patriarch Tony Soprano. But even with such talent on display, neither of them had ever starred in a film before.
Writer/director Nicole Holofcener, with her gifted eye for acting ensembles, gave them the chance in ENOUGH SAID, her new delightfully sad romantic-comedy. Louis-Dreyfus stars as Eva, a divorced masseuse, who goes to a party and meets two people. One of them is Albert (Gandolfini), a lovably oafish guy going through some of the same stuff as Eva. The other is Marianne (Holofcener muse Catherine Keener), a charmingly pretentious and articulate poet. Eva finds a date in Albert and a client/friend in Marianne. And then one day Eva discovers that the ex-husband Marianne keeps complaining about is none other than Albert. Ain’t that a kick in the head?
ENOUGH SAID’s premise is somewhat sitcommy. It’s a crafty hook, one that lets Louis-Dreyfus play exasperated and exasperating, frustrated and frustrating. (The best quality of Louis-Dreyfus’ comic style is her fearless lack of vanity as a performer.) I also like to think that Holofcener is making a winking allusion to Louis-Dreyfus’ sitcom past. I can totally see something like this happening to either Elaine Benes or Christine Campbell.
What elevates ENOUGH SAID above its sitcom hook is the insight and honesty embedded into the screenplay and direction. Since her debut with WALKING AND TALKING, Holofcener has become a master of crafting complex, layered characters and putting them in biting comedies about relationships, both friendly and romantic. Holofcener’s authentic dialogue and her simple but effective visual style work hard to give these characters a solid foundation. Scenes showing Eva dealing with her clients and Albert at his job as a TV archivist demonstrate the kind of lives they lead.
The scenes with Eva and Albert in their relationship feel real. The actors share a lived-in chemistry as their characters bond over their divorces and impending empty nest syndrome. While most romantic-comedies are about twenty-somethings these days, ENOUGH SAID is refreshing in its focus on how to start your life over in your fifties.
Nicole Holofcener’s films are also about class struggles, especially within female friendships (ostensibly in PLEASE GIVE and FRIENDS WITH MONEY), and that theme is also prevalent here. Eva is awestruck by Marianne’s immaculate house and incomprehensible poetry. Eva’s want for Marianne’s lifestyle isn’t manifested through catty jealousy but genuine admiration. She wants to upgrade her life to Marianne’s level (it’s to Keener’s credit that Eva looks up to her even though Marianne is flawed herself).
The theme of upgrade runs through the entire film. All of the characters are faced with the temptation of upgrading and the threat of being upgraded from. Eva’s friends Sarah and Will (Toni Collette and Ben Falcone) deal with an incompetent housekeeper and want to upgrade to a better one (a subplot that should be satirical but can’t find the right tone). Eva’s daughter Ellen (Tracey Fairaway) fears her best friend Chloe (Tavi Gevinson) is replacing her when Eva strikes up a friendship with her. Holofcner ingeniously uses the theme of upgrade to unite all the various characters and subplots.
And now the in memoriam paragraph for James Gandolfini.
Gandolfini has a looming presence on the screen. His inherent charm and disarming sincerity helped the often-cruel Tony Soprano have believably tender moments during The Sopranos’ run (especially with Meadow Soprano, the tragic Adrianna and the horse Pie-Oh-My). Albert is a wonderful character for the late actor because he emphasizes parts of Gandolfini’s talent we the audience all too easily forgot he possessed. Gandolfini shines in the role, balancing the humor and the pathos with remarkable effortlessness.
Part romantic-comedy, part class satire, ENOUGH SAID is an exceptional entry into Nicole Holofcener’s already luminous career. The film offered Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini the opportunity to find new avenues for their talents, even after accomplishing so much on television. ENOUGH SAID is a very funny film, one that mines humor from real life situations. As a fan of Holofcener’s low-key but high impact style, I think ENOUGH SAID just might be her best film yet.