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Enough Said

James Gandolfini and Julia Louis-Dreyfus in Nicole Holofcener's Enough Said. [Photo: Fox Searchlight Pictures]

Enough Said 1.5 out of 4 star1-5

Enough can't be said about how James Gandolfini comes so close to saving Nicole Holofcener's latest articulation of white suburban anxieties. In fact, Gandolfini's Albert, a divorced father preparing for his only daughter's departure for New York, aptly serves as a respite from the upper-middle-class (and middle-age) issues facing Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), a California-based masseuse who's also dealing with a recent divorce and a daughter heading to the East Coast for school. They meet at a friend's party, and from there Holofcener's script builds up a wise and tender romance between them, one that's at first rife with melancholy and prickliness. Thanks largely to Gandolfini, however, these barbed emotional defenses start to give way to a near-majestic vulnerability, one that serves as a lynchpin for nearly every character that wanders through Enough Said.

Of course, it wouldn't be a Holofcener film if the script's conceit didn't also allow for a few banal stretches of awkward interactions and verbal lash-outs. Eva, unbeknownst to Albert, befriends Marianne (Catherine Keener), his bitter ex-wife, at the very same party where Albert and her meet-cute, and the writer-director uses the women's developing friendship as an insubstantial, perhaps unintentional means to deter the audience's emotional investment in Albert and Eva's quiet and honest love affair, which isn't unlike how Eva herself uses the friendship. In the end, Marianne is little more than an obnoxious, uncaring twit who either criticizes Albert or gloats about being friends with Joni Mitchell; she so obviously functions solely as a device to stir the plot that her scenes turn Enough Said completely cold and pestering.

A worse example of Holofcener's propensity for overrunning her films with superfluous drama and side characters is Eva's favorite married couple, played by Toni Collette and Ben Falcone, who spend most of their screen time discussing maid-firing etiquette. Holofcener also extends Eva's guarded, indirect brand of communication to her relationship with her daughter, Ellen (Tracey Fairaway), and while their dynamic allows for an occasional smirk, it proves thoroughly benign long before Ellen's climactic flight to Sarah Lawrence. Indeed, separation is the purveying theme, one that Holofcener, a divorced mother of two, oddly has very little to say about that's either compelling or particularly personal.

Ultimately, Enough Said feels like a transition in terms of mood and tone for Holofcener, away from the lacerating wit of her previous work and toward something more cheerful and sincere. It's not surprising, then, that her latest effort looks and feels more in line with her contributions to Parks & Recreation and Enlightened, more broadly inviting and nicely paced, but formally dull and hurried. It often feels like the film's characters are just desperately grasping for something (anything!) to talk about, whether it be teen sex, Skype, floral bed dressings, or the volume of restaurant music. It's only when Eva is speaking intimately with Albert that the film takes on a moving, goodhearted glow of affections blooming, and one would need little more than these sequences to make the title feel accurate.

Director(s): Nicole Holofcener Screenwriter(s): Nicole Holofcener Cast: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, James Gandolfini, Catherine Keener, Toni Collette, Ben Falcone, Amy Landecker, Tracey Fairaway, Eve Hewson, Tavi Gevinson Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures Runtime: 93 min Rating: PG-13 Year: 2013

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