Runtime: 93 minutes
It's been three years since Nicole Holofcener last released a film, and it's been fifteen years since Julia Louis-Dreyfus appeared on screen. The latter's previous appearance was in a Woody Allen's Deconstructing Harry, so it's quite fitting that her return would be in a film by the former. Though Holofcener's career is much younger than Allen's (and not nearly as prolific) her work feels right at home next to the typical Allen film. Instead of intricate plots, both directors prefer more open-ended explorations of the privileged middle and upper classes, and the various hijinks in which they dabble. And even though Enough Said's style and structure occasionally feel like that of a network sitcom, it is ultimately a highly enjoyable comedy, albeit one that operates at a broader level than Holofcener's previous work.
Having directed episodes of TV's Parks and Recreation and Enlightened in the years since her last film (2010's wonderful Please Give), it's not entirely surprising that some sitcom-y tendencies have slipped into Holofcener's authorial bloodstream. With its abundance of characters and hazily sketched subplots, Enough Said does have a tendency to feel like something of a pilot episode. Some of the comedy arrives in fits and starts, and some dialogue exchanges feel a too artificial for their own good. Under different circumstances, these traits would become large, painful thorns in a film's side.
Enough Said, thankfully, has the low-key level of craft and acting that elevates its material into territory that is entirely pleasurable, rather than grating. That elevation comes largely from Ms. Louis-Dreyfus as protagonist Eva, and the late James Gandolfini as love interest Albert. The pair of TV titans (Louis-Dreyfus is close to beating Lucille Ball's record amount of Emmy wins) seem like an odd match at first glance. And, in fairness, it's kind of hard to picture Elaine or the Veep going for Tony Soprano. They appear to agree. When the two divorcees meet at a party, they both dryly comment that there's no one at the even they find attractive. Yet that first shared sentiment turns out to be a hidden sign. After a surprisingly enjoyable first date, Eva and Albert's relationship starts to grow in ways they never expected.
Of course, there are complications. If you've seen the trailer, you know how Eva's relationship with new client Marianne (Catherine Keener, Ms. Holofcener's muse of sorts) throws a wrench in everything. Yet whether or not you have foreknowledge of the film's surprise, it's hardly likely to affect your perception of the film. Holofcener keeps the pacing brisk, never allowing the more dramatic undercurrents of the story to suck the fun out of the film as a whole.
At first, that makes Enough Said seem rather slight. And, truthfully, Enough Said is a modest, unambitious character-based comedy. Yet even among the sitcom-y scenes and situations, there remains a remarkable attention to detail when it comes to the characters. The ensemble is close to being overstuffed (with friends, ex-husbands, daughters, and clients), yet seeing Louis-Dreyfus and Gandolfini play against type is more than enough to give the film some intrigue. Watching the former handle less misanthropic and neurotic humor, and watching the latter be funny at all, proves to be the film's secret weapon.
With the amount of time TV stars spend in a role, they tend to become associated with a certain persona, and are thus more vulnerable to being typecast. And even though Louis-Dreyfus retains some facial tics from her Seinfeld days, by the time Enough Said rolls into its final reels, there's no mistaking Eva for Elaine. The maternal compassion and hesitant romantic longing that the actress finds, without going overboard, is a delight to watch. For such a simple set up, Enough Said pulls its leading lady in a surprising number of directions. Individually they may seem plain, but the combination that Holofcener and Louis-Dreyfus come up with here somehow feels fresh.
More subdued, though just as enjoyable, is Mr. Gandolfini, in one of his last roles. While his untimely passing is tragic, he could still be alive, and his portrayal of Albert would be no less delightful. A self-professed slob, Albert remains good at heart. In situations where Tony Soprano would have lost his cool and started throwing punches, Albert keeps a level head and internalizes his feelings of anger and disappointment. It culminates in one of the film's best scenes, that also happens to be one of the few dramatic ones in the entire 90 minute run time.
And even though Enough Said is broader than Holofcener's previous work, it still has her keen ability to use character-based comedy to touch on deeper emotional truths. She mines the realm of middle-aged romantic foibles for comedy and tear-jerking drama with remarkable dexterity. The humor may not be quite as successful, but it still builds effectively to several beautifully human scenes. While these moments aren't exactly enough to make Enough Said more than a good film, they further demonstrate Holofcener's gifts as an observational humorist and storyteller. Even when working at a gentler, more accessible level, the writer/director remains one of the most consistent voices among indie filmmakers, which bodes well for her future. As small as Enough Said is, it's still something of a miniature triumph for how thoroughly it fulfills its own small-scale ambitions. That's something that even personalities as disparate as Elaine and Tony Soprano could agree about.