Enough Said (2013) – Nicole Holofcener

Enough Said (2013) is a lovely comedy. It’s funny and true and sad the way that life is. It avoids the contrivances and clichés that so often sink other romances and puts forth two imperfect people who might be perfect for each other if they could simply focus on that and none of the other stuff. It has two delightful lead performances by people we want to be happy. It’s about pride and the fear of being hurt and the fear that giving up our little peccadilloes and pet peeves will leave us open to love and all the dangers and change that may bring.

The movie stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Eva, a Los Angeles masseuse. She’s divorced and has a daughter whose about to leave for college. She has clients who endlessly babble on, refuse to help carry her massage table and have terrible breath. Her best friend, Sarah (Toni Collette), and her husband, Will (Ben Falcone), have the kind of marriage that makes people question the institution. They are married to each other, but in love with complaining about it. Although there’s a real bond there, it’s the kind of bond that can make a single person relish independence. At a party, Eva meets two people. The first is Marianne (Catherine Keener), a poet who is looking for a masseuse; the second is Albert (James Gandolfini). She takes on Marianne as a client and reluctantly agrees to see Albert again. She’s reluctant because he’s hefty and a little schlubby and she’s not sure how to feel about that.

Her daughter, Maddie (Ivy Strohmaier) and her daughter’s friend Chloe (Tavi Gevinson) are just beginning their romantic lives and their concerns are all mainly cosmetic, and Eva wonders if she can be attracted to someone she doesn’t find traditionally physically pleasing. She and Albert’s first date, however, goes wonderfully as he’s funny and engaging and charming in a way that’s genuine. She falls for him. At the same time, Eva and Marianne become quite close and Marianne frequently confides in Eva, though this typically centers around her complaints about her ex-husband. He was a slob, she says. A clumsy lover. He dipped his chips all wrong. Had no sense of humor. Albert takes Eva to lunch with his daughter Tess (Eve Hewson) and a few days later, on one of her appointments with Marianne, Eva notices a photo of Tess at Marianne’s house. Tess is also Marianne’s daughter, meaning that Marianne’s awful ex is Eva’s wonderful Albert.

Eva decides not to reveal this knowledge to either Marianne or Albert, in part because she really likes Marianne and wants her approval and would be embarrassed that she’s fallen in love with the chip-incompetent poor lay. She also wants to hear more about what’s wrong with Albert so she can be prepared. This is wrong and a little sick and can do nothing but sow discord between the two of them, but it’s natural, like seeking inside information on a stock. However, Eva doesn’t seem to realize it’s like getting inside stock information from someone who lost it all in the stock market. Marianne’s view of Albert is bitter and biased and, compared to what Eva feels, plain wrong, but it clouds her perception of him and soon their dates go progressively poorer. The things he did that were charming before seem unrefined and embarrassing now. He’s not as funny, he’s cheesy. And he does dip his chips like an idiot. At a dinner party with Sarah and Will, Eva humiliates Albert about his inability to whisper. She thinks she’s just goofing around but she’s being hurtful, something Sarah and Will, two experts, even pick up on. On the car ride home, Albert says, “Why do I feel like I just spent the evening with my ex-wife?”

The central issue of Enough Said is that we let our notions about what relationships we want other people to think we have get in the way of the ones that we already have. For Eva this extends to her relationship with her daughter. She spends so much time with Chloe, the friend, because Chloe looks up to her and shares secrets with her; she makes Eva feel young and cool and Eva hopes that her own daughter will take notice of this and they may have the same relationship. What she doesn’t see is that the attention she lavishes on Chloe alienates her daughter. Eva wants Marianne’s approval so badly she damages her relationship with both Albert and Marianne by not being honest. In this way, Sarah and Will’s marriage, far from perfect, emerges as the most grounded one, not because they don’t fight or sometimes hurt each other, but because they don’t care if other people know that; it’s part of marriage and they don’t try to pretend to be anyone other than what they are.

Eva’s desires are understandable because they are shared by many, if not most people. We want those perfect lives that others look at and are awed by (or not unwelcome, jealous of). We often let go of happiness because of what it might look like to other people and that’s a shame. The movie does a wonderful job of presenting what a mistake that is in a non-preachy way. The credit for that goes to Nicole Holofcener, who directs and wrote the script, scrubbing clean any heavy-handed message or sentimental mush. This is an adult movie, made for adults that asks us to look a little deeper at ourselves and others.

It’s also very funny. Credit for that must go to Louis-Dreyfus who is effortlessly charming and whip-smart. Her ability to simultaneously have us think she’s the smartest person in the room and that she’s a soft nudge away from falling apart creates a comic tension that sustains the movie and rallies us to her cause. Gandolfini is also lovely, with a muted but genuine performance that is difficult to pull off. They’re quite good together and we believe in their romance (thanks also to Holofcener’s script) because we see who they are and what would attract them to the other. Too many other romances skip that part, but their courtship is sweet and bumpy, like many are, especially ones in which the participants are stuck in their own ways. He can’t help but fart a little when he enters a car; she can’t help but pull up weeds in his yard. “What are you doing to my yard?” he asks as she mindlessly uproots clumps of flora during their second date. “You’ve got a ton of weeds out here,” she says with the kind of tact that leads someone to pull up weeds in a relative stranger’s yard. Taking a small step that is a huge leap in the psyche of a suitor who’s been hurt, he gets over how he was offended and decides to help. “You’re pulling up nothing but good grass there,” she says.

Enough Said is a wonderful movie, the kind that doesn’t come around enough, that tackles what dooms most average relationships, not dramatic affairs or silly miscommunications, but a distrust that comes from fear of being hurt. It’s about little mistakes that keep us from being happy and, more than that, that such mistakes can be unmade. 

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