Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Enough Said

What I admire most about Nicole Holofcener is that she makes movies that no one else makes. Movies about women of a certain age, at a certain time. These women are usually on the cusp of middle age, are somewhat wealthy through obscure ventures, a little bored, a little tired and a little pissed. They’re also looking for love, even if they don’t know it.

Enough Said is Holofcener’s fifth feature film, following the accurate desperation of Please Give and the on-the-surface hopelessness of Friends with Money. Those adjectives don’t describe the films, per se, but rather the mentality of the characters living within them. Words I’d use to describe Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), the lead of Enough Said, are blindly content and unknowingly eager. Eva is a private massage therapist living in L.A. who’s dreading the final weeks before her only daughter goes to college. Eva is a lot like the other women in Holofcener’s films, which means she’s happy where she’s at in life, if no other reason than she’s used to it.

After Eva meets Albert (James Gandolfini, in his final film role) at a party, she slowly lets her guard down and hesitantly readies herself for love.
If a Nicole Holofcener film relies on just two things, it is strength of character and believability of dialogue. All of her characters speak the way real people actually talk, which can frankly be jarring. People in movies rarely speak how people in real life speak. That’s one thing that makes them movies. But a dinner party scene in a Holofcener film feels eerily close to that fun conversation you had with a group of people at the last party you hosted. They talk openly about their own faults (and the faults of those they know), they interrupt, they let alcohol motivate their loose tongues, and so on.

My point is, I love Holofcener’s writing. I’m a huge admirer of her ability to pull off “real talk” in such a naturalistic way. Problem is, I’ve seen all of her films, and by now, I know what’s coming. I feared this when I saw Please Give a few years ago, and Enough Said has confirmed it: there’s simply no variation in Holofcener’s writing from one film to the next. Or at least not enough to playfully throw me off the story and introduce something I wasn’t expecting.

Don’t get me wrong, the back and forth exchanges between Louis-Dreyfus and Gandolfini are some of the best Holofcener has ever written. My qualm with the repetitiveness of Holofcener’s films has nothing to do with the actors involved. Gandolfini’s work in particular is poetically heartbreaking. It shows that he had a lot more left in the tank post-Tony Soprano. His Albert is a gentle giant that you want to slap silly and bear hug at the same time. I just wish, as a whole, that the film had a few more surprises in store.
Another important note for those unaware of Holofcener’s style: all of her films more or less hinge on a concept that you have to accept to enjoy. Whether it’s Catherine Keener seriously crushing on an underage Jake Gyllenhaal in Lovely & Amazing, or Keener and Oliver Platt praying that their cranky neighbor will die soon in Please Give, if you don’t buy what Holofcener is selling, then you’ll be bored to tears.

The quirky story arc in Enough Said is that, early into the film, Eva realizes her new friend and client, Marianne (Keener) is actually Albert’s ex wife. Much of the movie centers on the playful notion of Can Eva keep her friendship with Marianne a secret from Albert, and visa versa. As a follower of Holofcener’s work, I unfortunately knew exactly where she was taking the film, but for those new to her world, you should have a whimsical time discovering it for yourself. B

18 comments:

  1. Very well done my friend. I have you to thank for even turning me onto Holofcener's work in the first place and I am definitely impressed. I saw this right before I saw Don Jon and I would be lying if I said that this one didn't leave a more lasting impression on me. Maybe it's because I'm not as familiar with Holofcener's work (I've only seen Walking and Talking and Lovely and Amazing before seeing this one) but I really loved the dynamic of the film even though it was fairly obvious where things were going. Gandolfini is just fantastic and it's such a shame he passed away so young and without getting the chance to demonstrate just how versatile he really was. Keener is one of those actresses for me that could improve any movie, and I wish she worked more (actually... I wish Keener was in every movie I saw, but that's just me). A nice little gem that I hope makes money so Holofcener can make more films!

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    1. So happy you liked the movie. To be clear, not getting the most out of a movie because it is similar to other films the director has made isn't exactly fair criticism. Holofcener is a fantastic director and I respect the hell out of her. But in the case of this movie, I suppose I wish I wasn't such a fan of hers, if that makes sense.

      Gandolfini was great, wasn't he? So damn sad he passed so young.

      If you're a Keener fan, you'll love what I posted a few hours ago!! :)

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  2. So many times I'd be watching this movie, laughing and having a good time, and then I'd just think about Gandolfini and all of a sudden, get very sad. Very heartbreaking to see him go, as he truly was a talent to behold. Good review man.

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    1. Thanks Dan. I couldn't agree more with you. So very true. It's still so surreal that he's gone.

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  3. I was thinking after "Please Give" that Holofcener was very possibly working a one-trick-pony in the writing/formula of her work. I may still have to watch this just for Gandolfini's role in it. He was so much more than Tony Soprano.....like his role as Winston (Leroy) in 'The Mexican". Ok, he was a hitman, but a complex character with a whimsical side. Such a talent. Thanks for the a concise review.

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    1. Thank YOU for reading, Dawn! I really do love Holofcener's films, but yes, they are rather similar to one another.

      It's definitely worth seeing for Gandolfini alone (though everyone is great in it). I LOVE his work in The Mexican. Easily the best part about that movie.

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  4. I actually have not seen any of Holofcener's films, but I'm looking forward to this one based on the plot and Gandolfini's performance. His film work in recent years was uniformly great: In the Loop, Not Fade Away, Zero Dark Thirty and Killing Them Softly, the last of which absolutely deserved awards attention last year. (BTW: How weak was last year's supporting actor slate? Gandolfini would've provided a jolt of much-needed energy.)

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    1. If you haven't seen any of her films, then I think you'll enjoy this one. And Gandolfini is great in it, no doubt.

      I thought Supp. Actor was okay. I didn't agree with Arkin or Jones being there. My personal noms would've been:

      Robert De Niro – Silver Linings Playbook
      Leonardo DiCaprio – Django Unchained
      Philip Seymour Hoffman – The Master
      Matthew McConaughey – Magic Mike
      Christoph Waltz – Django Unchained

      You?

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    2. Seems we completely diverge on that category: I consider both Hoffman and Waltz as leads, although neither made my Best Actor lineup. I thought DiCaprio was too broad, too much of a caricature; De Niro was funny but not particularly noteworthy (I loved him [and Frances Conroy] in the overlooked Stone in 2011); and McConaughey was a close runner-up.

      That said, here's my noms from last year:

      Michael Fassbender (Prometheus)
      James Gandolfini (Killing them Softly)
      Samuel L. Jackson (Django Unchained)
      Tommy Lee Jones (Lincoln)
      Sam Rockwell (Seven Psychopaths)

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    3. Although our final picks do diverge, I still love all of yours. I wasn't Lincoln's biggest fan but Fass, Ganfolfini, Samuel L., Rockwell... hell yeah.

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  5. I'm going to see this film this weekend (along w/ Gravity) as I'm a fan of Holofcener though I understand your qualms with her writing as I felt that was why I was a bit let down by Please Give in some ways. I'm just hoping to see something really good as well as get a good cry from James Gandolfini.

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    1. Ahh I don't think you'll get a cry from Gandolfini. The fact that he's IN it is heartbreaking, but it's not a heartbreaking performance, you know?

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  6. Of Holofcener's work, I've only seen Friends with Money, which I didn't really like. I wasn't bored by it, but I didn't see what the fuss was about. I do want to check this out (esp. for the performances), though, as well as the rest of her work.

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    1. Honestly, Friends with Money is probably my favorite film of hers. Gandolfini has a fair shot at a nomination, so see it for him. But if you weren't a fan of Friends you may not be of this, you know?

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  7. I'm not familiar with Holofcener's work. This will soon change, most likely with this film.
    It is always a bit eerie to see someone like Gandolfini, who recently passed on, deliver what some are calling one of the best performances of his career.
    Being the big fan of Seinfeld that I am, I can't wait to see what Julia is able to do with her character in this film.
    Very nice review!

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    1. Thanks man! It's definitely one of Gandolfini's best film roles. Makes it even sadder that he's left us. Damn shame.

      Julia is priceless in this. Hope you enjoy it!

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  8. Love Julia and the late great James. Quality review as usual.

    Must see list for me..

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    1. Thanks man. James G is perfect in this one. So sad he's gone.

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