Review: Enough Said (2013)

I never understood the notion that James Gandolfini was sexy until I saw Enough Said, which demonstrated clearly what women found appealing about the late actor. His appeal was nothing so shut and closed as him being powerful. Power can be sexy, but it was that Gandolfini seemed to be a sensitive, emotional soul within this powerful hulk that was so alluring. He was huge and strong and would be a terrifying man when upset (as you saw so often on The Sopranos). But he was also sensitive and passionate. The cliché of powerful men is that they withhold emotion. James Gandolfini defied such a cliché. He was a powerful man who was all raging emotions barely kept under control.

As Albert in Enough Said, Gandolfini sports a beard and favours tee shirts and guacamole sans onions. He looks like a tamed bear. There’s his physical appeal in a nutshell. As can be assumed, Gandolfini is the best part of Enough Said, a romantic comedy for the middle age set from Nicole Holofcener. But Gandolfini being the best part of the film doesn’t mean the rest is without charm. Enough Said is patient and wise, and while it doesn’t avoid the conventions of the genre, it does play them with warmth and knowing.

The film follows Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Eva, a divorced masseuse who meets Albert at a party. They don’t seem to hit it off, but Eva’s friend Sarah (Toni Collette) later tells her Albert asked for her number. She decides to go out with him to a fancy restaurant aimed at people younger than themselves. Despite the mediocre service, Eva enjoys her time with Albert. Their conversations hold the easiness of old friends. Albert, this man who didn’t hold much initial attraction to her at first, starts to looks better each time she goes out with him. He’s gentle and affectionate and has also been through a divorce so he has no illusions about the difficulties of relationships.

Eva also becomes friends with another lady she met at the party, Marianne (Catherine Keener), who’s a poet. Marianne has her own notions about relationships. Predictably, Eva finds herself torn between the advice of Marianne and her attraction to Albert. She has been burned in love before and wants to prepare herself adequately for what aspects of Albert will annoy her in the future.

Like many films of its type, Enough Said argues that a mature relationship requires a person to forgive the eccentricities of one’s partner. It doesn’t take long for Eva to be annoyed with Albert’s propensity to remove the onions from his guacamole or the fact that he doesn’t have bedside tables. What makes Enough Said better than other romantic comedies is that it acknowledges the necessity to forgive quirks without sidestepping the difficulty of doing so, or underplaying the fact that many of these quirks can be genuinely annoying and baffling.

There’s an ongoing bit in the film that seems initially baffling to take up so much time, but actually plays into the film’s argument about relationships. Eva’s friend Sarah is having difficulties with her maid, and always assumes that the misplacement of various items around the house is the maid’s fault. The maid has been cleaning up the large house as best she can — Sarah is shown as a woman who keeps her house in constant disorder and is constantly rearranging it. After a disastrous dinner party, Sarah finds a baseball in her kitchen drawer. She loses it on the maid and fires her. It’s only after the maid leaves that Eva admits to having put the baseball in the drawer.

This bit addresses the fact that what annoys you about other people often has nothing to do with those people themselves. It works as a metaphor for arguments in mature relationships. It says that a person’s annoyance at the little flaws of their partner has more to do with themselves than with their partner. You can be annoyed by the little tics, but they cannot be deal-breakers because they’re so tied to your own frustrations that are independent of the other person.

The fact that Enough Said takes the time between the delightful romantic scenes between Albert and Eva to make these kinds of small, thoughtful statements makes the film more than just an amiable romance. Still, the main draw is the immense chemistry between Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini. It’s such a sad fact that we won’t see any more performances from the late Gandolfini. He excelled at playing criminals, but films like Enough Said showed his immense range. At least he left on a high note, displaying his appealing nature that bewitched so many audiences. The world will miss him.

7 out of 10

Enough Said (2013, USA)

Written and directed by Nicole Holofcener; starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus, James Gandolfini, Catherine Keener, Toni Collette, and Ben Falcone.