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‘Enough Said’ is an honest, charming look at middle-aged love

Courtesy of enoughsaidmovie.com

It is sobering to know that this is one of the last times we’ll see James Gandolfini’s big, friendly face in theaters. From meteoric rise in the public consciousness with the HBO series “The Sopranos” to smaller roles in films like “Zero Dark Thirty” and “The Incredible Burt Wonderstone,” he never missed a beat, bringing even the silliest films a sense of measured endearment and charisma. And so, paired with the indomitable Julia Louis-Dreyfus, it is no surprise that Gandolfini is the key ingredient in his penultimate film, “Enough Said.”

Writer/director Nicole Holofcener delivers a charming, well-written romantic comedy that sticks to its strengths. Dialogue is tight and the chemistry between the cast is beautiful. In particular, Julia Louis-Dreyfus is astoundingly good as Eva, a divorcee mother of one who’s looking for something to change up her life as a door-to-door masseuse. The actor has been such a comedic force in television that it’s easy to forget what an incredible entertainer she can be, but “Enough Said” wastes no time correcting that thought. Louis-Dreyfus has compelling scenes with absolutely every cast member, not only doing well for herself, but sometimes picking up slack in what would otherwise be lesser performances.

But of course, her co-star needs no help garnering investment from the audience. Gandolfini is immediately likable as Albert, a round, middle-aged single father who first encounters Eva at a party. In developing his character, Holofcener crafts a realistic portrait of a white middle-class bachelor. He’s unclean, but not excessively, and his general contentedness with his lot in life just feels honest. Gandolfini strikes an everyman note with this role, and with that comes the audience’s sympathy.

This candor carries through palpably to the rest of the characters. Toni Collette and Ben Falcone are believable as Eva’s married friends working through a lull in their relationship. Likewise, Tracy Fairaway, Tavi Gevenson and Eve Hewson all avoid the “bratty kid” stereotype as the teenage counterparts to the veteran half of the cast. Holofcener takes the time to carefully evolve them into three-dimensional young women with fleshed-out personalities, and the result is an emotionally involving depiction of modern adolescence.

“Enough Said” does, unfortunately, adhere to a rigid three-act formula, ultimately to the detriment of the film. However, Holofcener makes every effort to eschew that conceit. She knows her leads have enough raw talent for 10 films, and lets them breathe with her intensely clever script.

Even the shots in Holofcener’s film are carefully chosen, composed thoughtfully so that character motivations and values are immediately conveyed through visual cues. For example, the very first scene in the movie shows Eva struggling with her equipment next to her Prius. From that frame alone, we know that she’s doing well for herself, but that she might care more about what others think than she should. It isn’t often that so much thought is put into cinematography in a comedy, but giving the audience so much so quickly without saying a word is a boon to the film.

Indeed, what sets “Enough Said” above the pack is just that: thought. Holofcener offers ponderous commentary on the power of suggestion; she asks interesting questions about personal values and how friends and family can change them dramatically. The characters also openly probe the problem of balancing family with personal introspection.

They interrogate one another meaningfully, and the result is a film that doesn’t just offer some wistful tale of love, but a thought-provoking one, as well.

I think it’s safe to say that Gandolfini will be remembered most for his turn as Tony Soprano, but his quieter role as Albert might stick out to me even more; it’s hard to ignore how easily he could convey gentle sincerity with just a few words and a smile. For me, the actor couldn’t have done better for himself performing alongside a fellow television legend in Louis-Dreyfus in the second-to-last film of his career. Few in Hollywood can say they left behind a legacy like his, and it’s clear that the man certainly went out on a high note. So without belaboring the point, I’ll use the titular cliché on his behalf.

You will be missed, Mr. Gandolfini. Enough said.

Søren Hough can be reached at shhough@umass.edu.

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