Nice to know Tony Soprano has a soft side.
“Enough Said” is not your typical romantic comedy. This isn’t a film that relies on tired clichés or tropes that the viewer can anticipate, neither the female nor male leads are detestable , the dialogue feels natural as opposed to forced, and as opposed to the love interests focusing on trying to gain a connection, their focus is maintaining one in the wake of losses.
The film takes place in sunny California where we meet masseuse Eva, played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and get a look at her day to day life with clients. While Eva tends and massages, her clients go on about the multitude of problems in their lives. It’s as if Eva is just there as a healer.
For a change of pace, Eva decides to attend a party with her friend, Sarah, played by Toni Collette, and Sarah’s husband, Will, played by Ben Falcone.
At the dinner party, Eva mingles and mixes with the host, Hillary, played by Michaela Watkins, and is introduced to Marianne, played by Catherine Keener. Marianne is a poet, and apparently well known, but the two hit it off once Marianne learns that Eva is a maseusse. In need of a good rubdown, Marianne takes up Eva’s offer and becomes a client. From the start, Marianne comes off as a bit odd. Not in a bad way at all, just a bit out there and almost hippy-like with her poetry. Again, nothing bad, but it does paint her as a memorable way and there’s something to latch onto with her as soon as we meet her rather than just being a stock female character for the protagonist.
We’re then introduced to Albert, played by James Gandolfini, who hits it off with Eva in no time at all. They both have quick comebacks and while they’re quick to point out others’ flaws, they’re not above admitting their own quirks and ticks. This leads to them going on a dinner date. Albert works at the American Library of Cultural History and specializes in television. The two continue their playful banter, with both noting that they hate fake boobs, but luckily, Eva’s are 100 percent real. Albert’s flaws? He’s a slob and doesn’t like onions in his guacamole. Eva? She thinks hands are like paddles and can be a bit needy.
Keeping with the break of tradition, there is no first date kiss, but there’s some good chemistry between Eva and Albert, with Dreyfus and Gandolfini having genuine rapport with each exchange they have. At Eva’s home, we’re introduced to Eva’s daughter, Ellen, played by Tracey Fairaway, and her friend, Chloe, played by Tavi Gevenson, as she continues to help Ellen pack. Ellen will soon be leaving California to attend Sarah Lawrence in New York.
The next day, Eva meets Albert at his house for brunch. Last I checked, there’s no written rule on what you wear to brunch in your home, but seeing Albert in his pajamas was not what Eva had in mind. Nonetheless, they still maintain their connection from dinner and have even more in common, for Albert also has a daughter who is about to go away to college. We also learn some more about the past relationships between the two: Albert’s ex-wife thought he was sweet, but had no sense of humor, and they never had sex. Eva just felt that she and her ex-husband were out of sync. When Eva offers Albert a massage, he declines, stating that he would probably just hit on her and she would have to endure his comments and teeth.
When Eva and Albert go out to lunch, we’re introduced to Albert’s daughter, Tess, played by Eve Hewson, and we learn she’s about as trendy and fashionable as your average adolescent female. But it at least gives Eva something to compare to Ellen.
Eva continues to service Marianne as we learn more about Marianne’s ex-husband. Though the theme of middle age being comforting and sexy, that passion was not there in Marianne’s marriage. In addition to her ex had no sense of humor, he also attempted dieting many times, but cheated. More than that, they both devolved into a pair of people who bitched at each other. Also very limited in the area of cooking, as he makes an excellent plate of eggplant with mozzarella, but that’s about it.
Can you see where this is going?
Yup. Turns out that Marianne and Albert were once married. However, Eva, for the moment, does not see any of the traits in Albert that Marianne saw, until one day, Eva looks in Albert’s bathroom and finds tons and tons of unused mouthwash and toothbrushes. Why? Because he planned to get to it eventually. All right, not a giant deal, but still something that catches Eva’s eye.
Eva later goes to a dinner with Sarah and Will, but we’re also introduced to Eva’s ex-husband, Peter, played by Toby Huss, and Peter’s new wife, Fran, played by Kathleen Rose Perkins. Unlike what most would expect, Eva’s ex-husband is no slime ball, scum, or miserable, hateful man that you instantly dislike because he’s no longer married to the protagonist. In fact, there’s nothing to dislike about him, from what I saw. He’s actually moved on and is happy with Fran, and again, unlike the typical romantic comedy, Eva doesn’t harbor any resentment or hatred toward her ex. Sure, she’s commented on him when talking with Albert, but you get the feeling that, despite the divorce, the two are still able to remain friends. Such is the subject of conversation that evening: second marriages. Can people remain friends after a divorce or are those bonds shattered forever? There’s also the question of what draws people to one another. From looking at Eva and Peter, that connection can remain, but with folks like Marianne and Albert, some just struggle to hold onto those bonds.
The day following this dinner, we continue searching for what draws people together and apart when Eva and Albert go to Sarah and Will’s home for dinner. Man, the people in this movie really like eating together. Well, Eva tries to test Marianne’s theory about Albert when talks about his inability to whisper quietly and how she wants to get him a calorie book. Sure, Eva does it all in good fun, but, as Sarah points out, it leans more toward picking on Albert and there’s an uncomfortable tension in the room. Heck, Albert even tells Eva on the ride back to her home that he felt like he was with his ex-wife. Oh, and he won’t be coming into her home to stay the night.
Now how often do you get that in romantic comedies? The man is refusing to spend the night at the woman’s house because he’s pissed at her? Something you don’t see a lot, that’s for sure.
As Eva returns home alone, she finds Chloe alone since Ellen stepped out. When Eva shares her woes, Chloe comes across as more of a daughter than a friend, as Eva offers to let Chloe move in when Ellen goes away to college.
Later, Eva works on Maureen again when suddenly, Tess arrives with her father. Naturally, Eva tries to hide, but it’s no use and, as you’d expect, an awkward moment approaches.
I’ll leave the plot there since, really, I’m going on long enough without talking about my opinion of the film.
“Enough Said” offers a different look at relationships. It asks the question of what people will tolerate in relationships. As flawed as we all are, the film examines flawed romances, but how individuals can either accept or reject them in favor of something better. This was not made with the young, idealistic folks of my age range who know little to nothing about true love or long lasting bonds. It was made with a lot of heart and respect for those who have endured years of hardships in their love lives, but it goes beyond just two people who fall in love. The film looks at the baggage people carry, both physically and metaphorically, as can be said with Eva constantly dragging around her massage table like it’s a burden. It also shows how much control people think they have in their lives and what they’ll do to maintain that control.
Director Nicole Holofcener found a way to craft characters who are flawed, but, unlike a lot of movie relationships, accept their problems as part of who they are as opposed to a hindrance. These aren’t naïve 20-somethings who look forward to the future filled with kids, long-lasting jobs and an unbreakable bond. It’s about two people who know they’re past their prime, but still want a slice of happiness.
Eva’s life is routine and mundane. Her clients talk too much about themselves, her daughter is going away to college and she’s about to be left by her lonesome. Heck, when Eva is massaging her clients, we often don’t see their entire body and face, as if these customers only exist as just that: customers and not someone with whom Eva can form a connection. Normalcy has dulled her, but she’s not overly dependent on other people to keep her company. When you offer your daughter’s friend space in your home because your little girl is going away to college, you really want company. But it’s not unreasonable and Eva isn’t forceful when trying to talk Chloe into moving in.
At the same time, though, Eva likes to connect people to create a bond, as she does with both Marianne and Chloe. Also, as the film points out, Eva is quick to ask for another person’s opinion not just to help her come to a conclusion, but validate her own choices. Sarah, for example, is not just one of Eva’s best friends, but her go-to person. More often than not, Sarah knows exactly what Eva’s thinking and will do. Eva may be uncertain about her future, but she’s not ignorant of relationship woes. She doesn’t need to overanalyze a situation and she’s not one to impress or entertain- she’s just looking for a genuine friendship. If a relationship blossoms out of that, it will be through honest effort. The only issue is that Eva is too accepting of other opinions instead of going with her gut. For example, when she learns that Marianne and Albert used to be married, rather than just continuing with her romantic interest, she lets Marianne’s comments about Albert get to her and, as Albert says, poisons her perception of him.
Though Eva may be indecisive at times, her humor helps get her through awkward situations. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is great as the woman bogged down by age and feeling out of touch with her daughter, but she is no sad sack. Whether telling Albert that his hands are like paddles or having girl talk with her daughter’s friends, Eva has some charm to her. When you see Louis-Dreyfus on screen, you do not think of Elaine from Seinfeld. You do not think of Selina Meyer on Veep. You see a woman who is awkward and insecure, yet warm at the same time.
Equally warm in his role is James Gandolfini as Albert, who is very open and upfront about his shortcomings. He’s self-deprecating, but not a degenerate. Not that he’s refusing to change, but that he’s comfortable where he is, refusing to buckle when someone tries to alter his fundamental character. After Eva’s uninteresting escapades, Al turned out to be a change of pace, and for the better. If accepting flaws is one of the movie’s central messages, Al is the epitome of that. He doesn’t like to be bossed around and has no problem with how people perceive him so long as it’s their perception.
While it may be strange for a man to eat brunch with a woman while wearing pajamas or picking onions out of guacamole, that’s putting things into our perfect worldview where people are without flaw or blemish. Al may be flawed, but we all are. And unlike a lot of people, he accepts it without question. In fact, his self-deprecation is part of what makes him so appealing as a character. Rather than shrink within his insecurities and issues, he embraces them, and that has an effect on Eva, who concedes that she is just as middle-aged and flabby as Al. They’re imperfect, which makes them perfect. As is often said, sometimes a significant other can be so insignificant that the only thing they can offer is their unrequited love. That can be said for both Eva and Al, but more so Al because he’s fine just where he is.
One difference between the two is that Albert isn’t constantly grasping at something in order to maintain a connection. Neither of them likes kids, but Albert just wants to enjoy the time he has left with his daughter before she goes to college. He’s not interested in a substitute because he knows it’s inevitable. Raising children is difficult, as both Eva and Albert know, but Albert is more willing than Eva to let go. Maybe even more so since Tess is more like your typical adolescent female who’s into fashion and what’s trendy.
Both Eva and Al have been hurt before and are knowledgeable about the ins and outs of relationships. Al doesn’t have a support group of friends he can go to for advice, but Eva does, and as a result, his reactions feel more genuine than Eva because he’s going with his own instinct, not what someone else suggested. That’s not to say the supporting characters are pointless. In fact, their subplots are quite entertaining.
Catherine Keener as Marianne is very chill and laid back as a poet who enjoys life. She’s not spiteful or filled with hatred for Al- she just never felt understood. Her desire to change him clashed with his desire to stay who he was. In a way, she represents who look at society and say ‘This isn’t right,’ while Eva may agree that what she sees isn’t great, but she’s in no position to complain when she’s no well figured woman herself. There was no spark in their marriage and they just weren’t compatible. We aren’t given much of a look into Marianne’s life and her flaws other than that she complained about Albert, so all we can grasp that Albert didn’t like about Marianne was that she tried to change him. She wants to better herself and hoped the same thing for her husband, but they had conflicting views. That doesn’t make them bad people, just that she was never going to be able to change him.
As far as the other failed marriage goes, I was surprised to see that Eva’s ex-husband, Peter, isn’t harboring some grudge or out to flaunt around his new wife. Often when the protagonist is divorced, their ex will be seen as evil, someone we hate and want to see meet their downfall. Not so here. Peter is charming, funny, and he still has a friendship with Eva. That, above all, is very important. Too often friendships end because relationships ended. It’s as if people don’t realize that just because they aren’t sleeping with each other doesn’t mean they can’t still have a connection. After all, even though you’ve broken up with someone, I think it better to end on a good note and realize that the bond you had was well worth it and worth savoring. My point is that, based on Albert and Marianne’s experience, Peter could have been someone we as audience would hate by default, but he and Eva still get along and have a tender moment when they say their goodbyes Ellen. Just goes to show that relationships don’t always have to end on a downer.
And Toni Collette, who I always love, is great as the voice of reason, though maybe she should spend less time talking to Eva and more time on her patients. Sarah clashes with her maid, Cathy, played by Anjelah Johnson-Reyes, and how she tends to misplace items. Or, at least, someone else misplaces them and the maid is blamed. It doesn’t add anything to the overall film, but it was a fun addition.
The film seems to be a bit self aware, as if it knows that the romantic comedy formula has been played to death. Albert even admits to Eva how corny it is when he says she broke his heart. Very little here feels forced or cliché. There’s no giant argument or massive confrontation and I found the breakup moments genuine as opposed to sappy or melodramatic. The film knows what it wants to be and both Holofcener and her cast carry the film confidently. These people feel real.
“Enough Said” is a film made for people who want a good laugh. It’s about people trying to find something or someone to cling to when they face the world by themselves. In the case of sending children to college, it’s about losing something you’ve guarded all your life. The need to fill the void comes in response to both a need and desire. It makes you think about what you’ll do when the best days of your life are behind you. Will you be satisfied or still seeking companionship? And even more than that, will you like what you get, or will you try to change it? No one wants to grow old, and the journey can be lonely at times, but Eva and Albert are examples of people who can still find love and walk that journey together, even if only for a moment. That journey can be scary, but less scary when you’re with someone. The film is about coming to terms with and being comfortable with you are and not looking back when someone cannot accept your flaws. Rather, we embrace those flaws in our never-ending quest to find happiness.
People in my age range may not gravitate toward this film the way they would a mainstream romantic comedy or just a romance because the protagonists aren’t young, dashing and filled with optimism. The film is about dealing with ordinary life and facing your anxieties head on instead of burying them.
Though not James Gandolfini’s final film- that would be The Drop– he turns in a great performance that shows his tender side. We lost one of our best actors, but it’s good to see him in a softer role that does warm you.
“Enough Said” will make you examine relationships, take a look at your flaws and ponder your love life when you’ve past your prime. Again, it makes you consider how much you’re willing to endure in a relationship. And when faced with loneliness, do you wear a mask when seeking friendship or put your flaws out on display? If you’re still looking for love and haven’t found it yet, do you even need to wear the mask? One of the best things about “Enough Said” is how stark it is: this isn’t filled with love letters, romantic montages or happiness from scene to scene. And for this guy, who’s never experienced an actual relationship but has heard plenty of good and bad from his friends, it gives me even more to think about.