As true in 2014 as it was when when Flannery O’Connor warned us more than sixty years ago in her Southern Gothic short-story shocker turned single woman battle cry that “A Good Man Is Hard to Find,” if O’Connor were still around today, she might just as well write a sequel noting that in the social media age, a good friend is equally hard to find.
With this truism lurking somewhere in the background of the mind of the divorced Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) as she once again tags along to a party as the third amigo to her married friends Sarah (Toni Collette) and Will (Ben Falcone), the beautiful masseuse is stunned to find two potential new strangers who each might fill the aforementioned roles in the exact same night.
While initially hired by the impressive poet Marianne (Catherine Keener) to massage her aching neck, the two form an easy friendship, bonding over stories of their exes which the neat-freak Marianne is all too eager to share in the form of a laundry list of complaints about her disappointing, overweight ex-husband.
Yet as Marianne’s complaints about her past escalate, Eva’s future romantic prospects change for the better when she begins to date the charming, likeminded TV cultural librarian Albert (the late, amazingly great James Gandolfini).
Though initially uncertain if she feels any attraction towards a man who may not match up with her ideal vision of a mate, Eva is understandably drawn to Albert’s laid-back conversational ease, gentle flirtation and quick sense of humor.
Experiencing that enviable feeling on their first date “like we were old friends already,” Eva grows more attracted to Albert, only to find her initial impressions of the man second-guessed by the alarming realization that he is precisely the “clumsy in bed… sloppy” ex-husband that Marianne is always ranting about.
Caught between her own respect for the new, accomplished friend whose taste and lifestyle she’s completely in awe of and her budding feelings of what might very well be love with Albert, Eva retreats into her own mind, encouraging Marianne to share more with each passing day and then evaluating the information during her time with Albert.
Trapped in a cruel science experiment, while in anyone else’s hands Eva would be considered unconscionably selfish or twisted, in the deft portrayal of Louis-Dreyfus whose inexperience as a dramatic actor is augmented by writer/director Nicole Holofcener’s incredibly articulate, sensitive script, we understand her dilemma from both sides even when we don’t understand why she just doesn’t trust her heart right from the start.
Yet at the same time, we appreciate the complexity of the situation from the point-of-view of a woman who is in an emotionally vulnerable place – not only due to a past divorce but also because her daughter/best friend will soon be leaving her for college and she’s bracing herself for how much heartbreak she can handle.
And even though we hold our breath and hope for the best, we know that there won’t be any shortcuts in her future as whatever way the relationships play out, eventually someone is going to learn the truth and get hurt. Likewise, we respect Holofcener’s ability to let events unfold naturally, without big pop-song fueled emotional breakthroughs that occur during a montage sequence or a lot of unnecessary speechmaking.
In what is easily one of the filmmaker’s strongest works (and that’s saying something as it comes directly off the heels of her previous masterwork Please Give), we’re treated to one of the year’s best and most mature treatments of grown up romantic love that can stand right alongside Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight and Joe Swanberg’s Drinking Buddies.
While admittedly it is a bittersweet success as James Gandolfini finally got the chance to show a sensitive, sweet, sexy side of himself that was always shut away during his typecast Sopranos era, for one of his final works Enough Said is a fitting way for him to be remembered. Additionally, his portrayal of Albert in Holofcener's film makes for a great last half of a Gandolfini Double Feature to go along with his recent turn in David Chase's Not Fade Away as well.
And although his absence is certainly felt in some of the special featurettes included on Fox’s gorgeously transferred Blu-ray disc, thankfully now that this work has been released complete with an Ultraviolet High Definition digital copy of the film, he won’t fade away from memory in this – one of his most watchable performances.
A nice change of pace for Keener as well, who has starred in every single one of Holofcener’s films and usually plays the filmmaker’s alter-ego, Enough Said lets her use her intimidating beauty and confidence to brilliant effect, illuminating the complexities of co-dependency, peer pressure and power struggles that occur in female relationships of all ages.
Nominated for multiple honors this award season, while Enough may not stand a chance opposite some of Hollywood’s biggest studio-backed heavy hitters in snagging an Oscar, it’s a shoo-in to steal your heart. Just be sure to seek it out as Enough Said proves that good films – just like good men and good friends – certainly do exist and even though they’re hard to find, when you do, they’re well worth your time.
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