Much of “Enough Said”, the new film from writer/director Nicole Holofcener, centers around just a moment of such stupidity. It is a spin on the classic Cinematic Misunderstanding, yet never feels born of an Idiot Plot. This is because the misunderstanding is furthered and stretched to its breaking point on account of a character who recognizes the foolishness of her behavior, but can’t quite bring herself to face or correct it. Though the misunderstanding may sound wacky in theory, the film’s dialogue and character interaction is so unforced and winning that it succeeds as a modern day twist on the screwball comedy.
Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is a forty-something divorced L.A. masseuse. She has a fruitful evening at a party, meeting a future client, poet and author Marianne (Catherine Keener), and meeting a potential suitor, Albert (James Gandolfini). Their meet cute is noticeably organic, and that sensation continues through their first date, played with a tranquil charm by the two actors as they trade middle-aged war stories. Physically, of course, they don’t match up, the hefty Gandolfini and the fit Dreyfus. This is not played for laughs but for verity, a natural contrast that is honestly addressed. Eventually Eva sees past it because their emotional chemistry matches up, and the interactions and affectations of the two make it seem like they’re walking on air.
Right. So. Cinematic Misunderstanding. Perhaps it’s a “spoiler” but then I knew the “spoiler” going in and the film’s energy removed it from my memory until it appeared. Eva forges a friendship with Marianne, and Marianne is not shy about pouring over tidbits and voicing displeasure regarding her ex-husband. Dude sounds like a lout, and Eva agrees. Until Eva is made to realize that Marianne’s ex is Albert. Well, she needs to speak up naturally, but she doesn’t, and so the film
Is she keeping quiet simply to advance the plot? Not so fast. Holofcener is a better writer than that, establishing Eva as someone who doesn’t speak up in situations where speaking up is required and as someone who routinely fails to recognize her own neediness. A nicely drawn subplot involves her daughter Ellen’s (Tracey Fairaway) impending departure for college, a difficult time for any parent, more so when you have re-entered singledom and are about to be left again. So, without necessarily realizing it, Eva begins clinging to Ellen’s best friend Chloe (Tavi Gevinson) who, desiring a more prominent mother figure herself, reciprocates that clinginess. Frankly, it’s as touching as it is awkward, another signal of the script’s finely-tuned delicacy.
Eva can’t make herself to confess to Albert and she can’t make herself break free from Marianne and she’s having real trouble letting go of Ellen. Albert is having separation issues with his own daughter, also set to depart for college, but issues stem less from her leaving than her refusing to let him see her off. He has a comfort in his own skin that Eva does not, and that Marianne could not appreciate. And so what emerges from the story is the eternal problem of not seeing people for who they are, for wanting them to be what they are not, for desiring change in them more for own state of mind than their well-being, and for the infectious need of approval from others.
The closing lines achieve a simple perfection – inane on the surface, deeply true underneath. First acceptance, then change.