Nicole Holofcener’s Enough Said is her most conventional comedy since her 1996 debut, Walking and Talking. I don’t love it as much as her scattershot ensemble movies Friends With Money and Please Give, but it has enough weird dissonances and hilarious little curlicues to remind you her voice is like no other. I love it enough.
The film centers on a divorced masseuse named Eva, played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who starts to fall for Albert, the overweight curator of a Los Angeles vintage TV show museum. I’m not being rude calling him overweight. That’s one of the hurdles the slim Eva must overcome. And Albert — played by the late James Gandolfini — admits his ex-wife was repulsed by his weight.
They’re cute together, but Eva doesn’t trust her own judgment. She sounds out her friends, among them her old pal Sarah, played by Toni Collette, and her new pal and client, a poet named Marianne played by Catherine Keener. Eva doesn’t just want their opinions; she wants to discern Albert’s fatal flaws. The subject comes up at the couple’s first dinner datewhen she jokingly asks for his ex-wife’s phone number so she can find out what happened during their divorce. He suggests that divorced people should wear signs around their necks listing what’s wrong with them, just to get it all out there.
Eva’s reaction is one of Louis-Dreyfus’ best moments: “What would yours say?” She tries to pose the question lightly but her smile freezes in place — there’s a core of anxiety.
It’s a breakthrough performance for Louis-Dreyfus in what you’d call the “Catherine Keener” role, since Keener has been Holofcener’s alter ego in all four of her previous features. What Louis-Dreyfus brings is a faster motor, which means peerless farcical timing. But she can also stop and let you see the vulnerable human being under that clown mask.
No one utters the words Enough Said in the movie, so what does that title mean? I think it refers to the way the characters talk themselves out of things they know to be true. All the talk is fraught. Holofcener has a squirm-comic’s love of exchanges that are awkward and out-of-synch, but also a humanist faith in the possibility of connection. In one exchange, after Eva and Albert have finally gone to bed together, she says, “I’m tired of being funny,” and he says, “Me, too.” And she says, “But you’re not funny.” Which is funny. She can’t help it.
This is one of Gandolfini’s last performances and the ultimate proof he could change his rhythm and demeanor without losing the source of his power: a connection to that big, inner baby starved for love and nourishment. The weight — well, it’s hard not to think it contributed to his death, so it’s a heartbreaking subject. But he’s so vivid you forget he’s not still here. His Albert is a man who has governed every wayward impulse except eating. He makes a visible effort to accept himself after years of marriage to someone who couldn’t.
Not everything in Enough Said jells, and Keener’s Marianne is … strange. She dresses like an Earth Mother, but she’s nasty and dismissive and, when approached by fans of her poetry, pointedly indifferent. Marianne needed a final scene with Eva to round out her character. But I love that Keener isn’t at the center, that she and Holofcener decided to shake up their director-actor relationship.
The best subplot features Tavi Gevinson as Eva’s teenage daughter’s friend, who gravitates to Eva as a surrogate mom — it’s so rich it could have sustained its own movie. Eva welcomes a replacement daughter because her own is leaving for college, and Albert has a daughter who’s also heading to school. They’re both especially needy now, and that neediness binds them — and pulls them apart. But the song they sing together is of unsurpassing sweetness.