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“Enough Said” with James Gandolfini

“Enough Said” with James Gandolfini
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BY ALISON BAILES

The late James Gandolfini rarely got to show the different facets of his character in his movie roles. Too often he was cast as the tough guy, a variation on the mafioso/hitman/thug that got him noticed back in 1993 with “True Romance “.

In “Enough Said”, Nicole Holofcener’s new chatty comedy, Gandolfini gets to show his sexy warmth and twinkling sense of humor that will make you forget that he was ever linked with Tony Soprano.

He plays an L.A. divorced father of a teenage girl about to head off to college in New York. He’s not handling the impending situation too well and things with his ex-wife are bumpy. When he meets Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) at a party, they connect in a non-connecting kind of way, like two mid-life single parents who can’t be bothered to make small talk or play games. Eva also has a college-bound daughter and can barely face the thought of her empty nest. An insecure woman, she clings to her daughter’s best friend as a replacement which causes problems both with her daughter and the friend’s mother.

Eva and Albert start dating. Holofcener’s script rings so true to the way women and men actually talk and the actors deliver the dialogue so naturally that you’ll swear it’s completely auto-biographical or that the actors are doing a brilliant job of adlibbing.  Eva and Albert’s first date is funny, awkward, flirty and unsure. Exactly as in life.

At first Eva is reluctant to date a man who isn’t her physical ideal. Any apprehension about Albert’s appearance is quickly set aside as she, and the audience are drawn in to his gentle wit and soft masculinity. They tease and flirt, mock and challenge each other in a complementary way and we encourage their love story. It’s no surprise that Louis-Dreyfus has a natural knack for comedy, but she tones down her smart-alec quippiness for some genuine emotional moments.

Eva, who is a massage therapist has recently started seeing a new client, an urbane, sophisticated poet (Catherine Keener) and the two women become friends with Eva in thrall to Marianne’s effortless chic style. When Marianne complains about her ex-husband, ragging on his petty, annoying habits, it doesn’t take long for the penny to drop. Albert is Marianne’s ex-husband. Except that Eva doesn’t fess up immediately. She prefers to pick her new friend’s brain to get the skinny on Albert. And as she learns that Albert is “clumsy in bed”, or that he swirls his chip in the guacamole too much, she starts to view him through a different light. Eva is too insecure to have faith in her own opinion and her best friend (Toni Collette) is too wrapped up in her own messed up marriage to help snap her out of it.

Holofcener has always written brilliant scripts for women. From “Walking and Talking”, “Lovely & Amazing” to 2010’s “Please Give”, her films are full of interesting, flawed, fascinating characters who never veer into caricature or stereotype. Watching “Enough Said” feels like hanging out with friends, talking about relationships, laughing about love. As a 40 something woman I may be particularly in tune with her work. I’m not so sure how a much younger or male audience will appreciate this film. But I loved every second of it and only feel great sadness that Mr. Gandolfini isn’t around to star in the sequel. Because that is a film I would love to see.

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