A thoroughly ingratiating performance by the late James Gandolfini is about the only real distinction of Nicole Holofcener’s latest, a romantic comedy-drama that’s otherwise only mildly amusing. “Enough Said” brings a lump to the throat because it shows that time allowed us too little of a supremely gifted actor, but as a whole the film plays like a low-energy sitcom with a very unlikely coincidence as the linchpin of the plot.
Gandolfini is Albert, an easygoing divorced man who by his own admission is overweight and a bit of a slob. At a party one night he meets Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), a divorcee who supports herself as a masseuse who makes house calls. She’s somewhat at sea emotionally, not only because she hasn’t had a serious relationship for awhile, but because her daughter Ellen (the aptly-named Tracey Fairaway) is about to go far away to college out East. Though their initial conversation doesn’t suggest that they have great potential as a couple, she agrees to a date with Albert, and it proves considerably more enjoyable than she’d anticipated, especially since he can commiserate with her concerns about Ellen because his daughter Tess (Eve Hewson) is about to leave the nest, too.
The development of the romance between Eva and Albert has some charming moments, such as the tour he gives her of his workplace—a museum of television history where he’s busily converting old tapes into digital format. Even the bedroom scenes have a nicely loose air about them, due largely to Gandolfini’s being a good sport about his girth. But following screenplay convention it’s inevitable that the progress of love doesn’t run smooth, the bump along the road in this cause coming in the form of Marianne (Catherine Keener), a sophisticated, friendly poet whom Eva encounters at the same party where she first met Albert and who becomes a regular customer. During girl talk before and after their sessions, Marianne goes on about her divorce, bad-mouthing her ex, who just happens to have many of the same problematic traits as Albert. It doesn’t take a Mensa-sized intellect to see where this is headed.
As usual, Holofcener surrounds her lead characters with quirky supporting ones—in this case, not only the two daughters and Marianne, but Eva’s married friends Sarah (Toni Collette) and Will (Ben Falcone), who serve as sounding-boards for her self-examination. They’re nicely played, but the fact that Sarah’s a therapist accustomed to handing out advice seems too convenient by half, while the couple’s disagreement over whether to fire their bossy cleaning lady (Anjelah Johnson-Reyes) comes across as more off-putting than funny. The same can be said of Sarah’s obsession with rearranging the furniture in their apartment, a tick that might have generated some laughs in a 1950s sitcom but feels pretty stale now.
Then there’s a curious subplot involving Ellen’s friend Chloe (Tavi Gevinson), toward whom Eva increasingly develops a motherly attitude, causing Ellen to question whether her mother’s preparing to replace her even as she’s arranging to move out. The dynamic of this threesome seems forced, and the payoff when Chloe’s mother comes around to confront Eva is flat.
Throughout all this, Gandolfini’s Albert stands out as an oasis of likable stability in the whirling emotional vortex Eva finds herself in. Unfortunately he’s not matched by Louis-Dreyfus, whose repertoire of scrunched-up faces and slapsticky body movements grates fairly quickly; the performance feels more suited to the television’s small screen than an auditorium’s large one. The smaller turns are fine down the line, with Collette, as usual, sparking her scenes, however feeble the material, while the gallery of stereotypes presented in time-passing montages as Eva’s regular clients (a guy with bad breath, a voluble woman, a young man who’s oblivious at the sight of seeing the masseuse struggling up the flight of stairs to his place) serve their function without adding much to the texture of the piece. On the technical side all is well, with cinematographer Xavier Grobet using the Los Angeles locales nicely while giving visual personality to the varied interiors, and Marcelo Zarvos’ background score is fine.
But “Enough Said” doesn’t mark any appreciable advance on Holofcener’s customarily nice but undemanding work, though she does manage a few clever lines of dialogue along the way. Apart from Gandolfini, this is just bland middlebrow fare that’s not intrinsically superior to standard-issue Hollywood romantic comedies, though at least it avoids a pat ending.