I will admit that in the first moment that I saw James Gandolfini onscreen in Nicole Holofcener's Enough Said, I flinched.
I wouldn't fancy myself a lifelong or diehard Gandolfini fan, but his death earlier this summer at age 51 was a jarring and uncomfortable surprise. While Gandolfini has had great roles, such as television's The Sopranos and films like True Romance, Zero Dark Thirty, and In the Loop, he's also had an abundance of comfortable and ordinary films where his gifts as a character actor have made him someone that you've seen in films so regularly that it's difficult to imagine cinema without him.
Enough Said isn't technically Gandolfini's last film, but it is a tremendous way to remember the actor who was always far more talented than he was ever given credit. While he built a career on playing bad guys and mobsters, in the right role Gandolfini could simply light up the screen.
Enough Said is the right film. Enough Said is a film that reminds you just how amazing Gandolfini could be when the masks of gruffness were set aside in favor of his simply showing up and giving all he had to a role. In this film he plays Albert, a divorced middle-aged man facing the prospect of his only child heading off to college. He's at a friend's party where he meets Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), also divorced and also with a daughter about to head off to college. Both Albert and Eva are nearing 50 and not particularly focused on looking for anyone or anything, though it's readily apparent they are looking at what their lives will be like when their daughters move on.
If you can visualize James Gandolfini and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, then you've probably already chuckled in your mind because at first thought they seem like polar opposites. Eva herself has to overcome her initial feeling that she's not really "attracted" to Albert in a physical sense, but also can't deny that there's a spark and a connection that she wants to explore.
Love is like that, you know?
It doesn't always make sense.
If you know Nicole Holofcener's other films, like Friends with Money, Please Give, and Lovely & Amazing, then you also already know that she's far more about authentic characters than she is about appealing ones. She's not afraid to explore the gray areas in life, a fact that has most likely played a factor in her not quite being a household name. There will be those of you who despise Enough Said, but I'm guessing there will be far more of you who will admire it and maybe even love it.
Enough Said is a romantic comedy/drama for adults where the characters act real and feel real and sound real and experience life in very real ways. This may be one of Gandolfini's truly great performances, a performance that would have reminded Hollywood that he was much more than simply an intimidating figure for action flicks. Gandolfini dials it down quite a bit here and becomes a vulnerable human being in a world that doesn't always reward such vulnerability. It's a richly felt and developed performance that will hopefully see some kudos come its way.
Fresh off her second Emmy win in a row for her performance on television's Veep, Julia Louis-Dreyfus manages to make us continue to sympathize with a character who isn't always sympathetic. Eva is a massage therapist who, at the same time she meets Albert, encounters Marianne (Catherine Keener), a poet (really) whose life is attractively serene except for her ongoing complaints about her ex-husband that will ultimately cause Eva to begin doubting and testing her relationship with Albert.
Enough Said is filled with the kind of rich and rewarding characters that most actors and actresses nearing 50 hope to still be able to find. Rather than simply being "old people" on their way out, Albert and Eva are nearly fiftysomethings trying to figure out the next phase in their life and if and how love can factor into it all. The film contains frequently funny one-liners along with the kind of well worn jaded cynicism that one gets upon arriving into the late 40's and realizing that life isn't exactly what was expected.
Enough Said made me miss James Gandolfini, a wistful feeling that actually fit perfectly within the context of the film. It made me realize, once again, that life is about the "showing up" and not having any particular guarantees about what's going to happen.
Enough said - now go see the film.
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic