If one of "Enough Said's" leads hadn't passed away last summer, the film would at best be branded as an appealing romantic drama with a strong cast and a few heartwarming comic moments. But with the death of James Gandolfini, everything else kind of fades away, and "Enough Said" will be remembered primarily as one of the actor's final efforts.
Fortunately, it is a strong effort. Gandolfini and his fellow cast members are one of the chief strengths of a film that tries to navigate the murky waters of dating in middle age. The story is told from the perspective of Eva (played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus), a 10-year divorcee with a steady job as a masseuse who is getting ready to send her only daughter off to college. When she attends a party with her best friend Sarah (Toni Collette), two new people enter her life. Marianne (Catherine Keener), a successful poet who is apparently good friends with Joni Mitchell, hires her for her massage skills. Later she meets a man named Albert (Gandolfini), who gets her number and asks her on a date.
The next half hour is probably the most enjoyable stretch of the film, as Eva cultivates a trusting relationship with Marianne, who is also recovering from a divorce, and begins the awkward and charming process of dating Albert, who is struggling to share his daughter (also about to start college) with his ex-wife. Even though Albert is not Eva's type, their relationship grows, and the film says some nice things about learning to accept our own faults as well as those of others.
Then Eva realizes that Albert is Marianne's ex-husband.
The second half of "Enough Said" feels a bit more contrived and eventually falls into a familiar romantic comedy formula, but it still feels refreshing enough to be enjoyable. By focusing its story on a middle-age couple instead of a pair of hot new Hollywood twenty-somethings, it offers a relatable perspective that feels more grounded in reality. But while the middle-age leads offer a degree of relationship wisdom that similar films lack, more traditional audiences may struggle to reconcile the fact that Eva and Albert are already having sex by the second date.
One of "Enough Said's" charms is the sincere way it handles the sensitivity and caution Eva and Albert use to approach their relationship, still smarting from their divorces. But a scene where Albert gives Eva a simple necklace, then cringes as if the gesture is "too much," would feel more believable if they weren't already sleeping together.
Yet, as mentioned before, "Enough Said" will be remembered far more for Gandolfini's presence than for its interpretation of modern dating mores. To his credit, the man best known for playing Mob boss Tony Soprano is endearing as an awkward, self-conscious courtier who essentially works in a TV library. And while he doesn't have magic chemistry with Louis-Dreyfus, it is nice to see her in a role unique from the slapstick work that defined her career in "Seinfeld."
In some ways, the subplot involving her daughter casts her character in a much better light than the minefield Eva navigates with Albert. While the Eva-Albert relationship anchors the film, the story also explores subplots involving the relationships the leads have with their college-bound daughters (as well as an additional subplot concerning Sarah and her maid that feels a bit superfluous). It is these additional dynamics that underscore the complexity of working romance into life once you have a few roots in the ground, and that make the film more worthwhile and realistic at the same time.
"Enough Said" is rated PG-13 for language (including a single use of the "F-word" and various references to deity), some vulgarity, and scattered non-explicit sexual content.
Joshua Terry is a freelance writer and photojournalist who appears weekly on the "KJZZ Movie Show" and also teaches English composition for Salt Lake Community College. You can see more of his work at www.woundedmosquito.com.