Finding a great romantic comedy is a rare and precious thing, like finding a four leaf clover or a bra that actually fits.
The genre is basically on life support at this point, replaced by het-up supernatural tween romances. But that’s not because romantic comedies are inherently flawed, it’s because we’ve been served up some really crappy ones lately. (What To Expect When You’re Expecting, anyone? Anyone?)
And then, along comes Enough Said, a movie so perfect, so charming, so frothy-yet-nutritious that it restores my faith in romantic comedies, romance, and, hell, all of humanity.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays Eva, a massage therapist. She’s in her 40s, divorced, and—life crisis alert!—her teenage daughter is about to leave for college. At a party, she meets Albert (James Gandolfini) and they bond over their mutual empty nest paranoia (his daughter is also on her way off to school) and the fact that neither finds the other attractive (heh).
They start to date: At first she thinks she can’t possibly be drawn to him. He’s “kinda fat” and a little schlubby (he goes on a brunch date in an over-sized tee-shirt and a pair of Birkenstocks), but he makes her laugh and they share the same values. This is middle-aged love—not intense and all-consuming—but tender and relaxed and real.
At that same party, Eva had met Marianne (Catherine Keener), a poet, who enlists Eva’s services as a masseuse, and the two eventually become friends. Marianne has a habit of complaining about her ex—who was large and slovenly and “clumsy in bed.”
And then, yep—you guessed it—Eva discovers that Albert is Marianne’s ex. Instead of doing the right thing, cutting Marianne off right away, she continues to use her as a “human Trip Advisor,” gleaning all sorts of terrible and damning bits of insight about Albert through Marianne’s jaundiced eyes.
What an ingenious premise for a romantic comedy, and so well-executed by Nicole Holofcener, who has long-been one of my favorite filmmakers. (I first fell in movie-crush with her when she made Walking and Talking, featuring a fizzy young Catherine Keener as a sort of Gen X Diane Keaton).
I can’t say enough about Julia Louis Dreyfus’s performance here (and I hope Oscar voters don’t dismiss her based on some weird anti-rom-com bias). The scene where Eva’s lies begin to unravel is an amazing display of both grand comedic panic and genuine emotional distress. That Enough Said made me laugh is no surprise. That it also made me cry is a sign of how much I had grown to love and care about both of these characters.
What a shame that this is one of James Gandolfini’s last films, because it’s such a milestone for the actor, a complete shedding of his tough-guy persona. (Fans of The Sopranos knew that he had an unlikely sex appeal, but Holofcener was wise enough to see his inherent sweetness, too.) On the other hand, the movie is a kind of wonderful gift—one last chance to see Gandolfini in this gentle new light.
Go figure. Tony Soprano in the best romantic comedy I’ve seen in years. Trust me when I say you'll fall in love with him—and this gem of a film.