I watched Enough Said in January of last year and fell pretty head over heels for it and its directer, Nicole Holofcener, most of whose filmography I would then go on to see. In a similar vein to this year’s Obvious Child, Enough Said takes a familiar genre and filters it through a modern perspective, challenging those who say there’s either no good romantic comedies any more or no need for them. Heartfelt stories are still ready to be told and I’m glad Holofcener was one to tell it.
Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is content with her life, a divorced mom who hasn’t been hitting the dating scene for a while. Her daughter is about to head off to college and while at a party of a friend’s she meets Albert (a wonderful James Gandolfini), a laid back, earnest man who’s in a similar situation. A sweet romance begins despite initial hesitance on Eva’s part due to a lack of physical attraction. The hiccup in the relationship happens once Eva realizes that her massage client Marianne (Catherine Keener) is Albert’s ex whom she’s been complaining about. Eva hides her relationship with Albert from Marianne and her friendship with Marianne from Albert all the while learning of reasons why their relationship didn’t work out, poking holes in her current one. There’s also a side plot of Eva growing close to one of her daughters’ friends who has a tougher time at home and isn’t leaving her hometown for college, brewing jealousy in her daughter. As with most romantic comedies (or any film ever, really), this all comes to a head, blowouts happen, and some things are resolved.
This all culminates in a beautiful, intimate and funny little film that allows people in their 40s and 50s a moment of triumph at the movies. It’s been oft-spoken about that women don’t get chances to shine when they’re past a certain age (Meryl Streep is the exception not the rule), and that when they do get roles they’re often playing the mother. For an example of this, look at Eva Green, who played Shailene Woodley’s mother in White Bird in a Blizzard this past year despite an 11 year difference in age – that’s just the most recent example. There are already so few meaty roles for women and by limiting the age range for them it only makes them tougher to come by. There’s a reason you hear the same four names tossed around every time an interesting role comes up. However, as Enough Said exemplifies, there’s a wealth of talent untapped due to the age restrictions and Holofcener isn’t concerned about age; she’s concerned about telling a touching story whose themes can resonate with all viewers.
Above and beyond the talent involved this film works because it’s honest. The troubles that Eva has with Albert or with her daughter aren’t glamorous or dramatized, but true to life and told by actors who understand nuance and awkward situations. Eva is annoyed with Albert’s small, insignificant habits, such as the way he eats or the way he dresses -she’s nitpicking a solid and nice relationship being of persistent self-doubts. For what I’m sure is the case in many relationships, fights hardly even happen from big events but rather small quirks of a significant other. Little things that make you grit your teeth day in and day out that typically you ignore but after a while of being around someone, notice it too much to stay quiet.
It also allows Eva to be human. She isn’t a simplified blank slate for viewers to project themselves onto, nor is she unrealistic. She’s a loving mother, she’s able to get along with her ex-husband, she enjoys the company of her friends, and is funny in a naturalistic way rather than a comedienne getting to tell jokes in a film because that’s what film viewers expect of her. She’s ordinary; warmly familiar. She also has her faults where she scrutinizes and judges and looks for problems where there aren’t any. The daughter’s jealousy also resonates. The summer before heading off to college is a bizarre limbo where you’re uncomfortable in your own home because you see bits and pieces of your time there packed up into boxes, you’re ready to leave for your next stage in life, but you realize the small comforts that living at home meant. She wants to live her own life but she also wants her mom’s attention when it’s still easy to come by.
It’s a breath of fresh air to see a movie treat these relationships and people with respect and allows them nuance and endings that seem realistic and earned. There aren’t ever any easy fixes when you mess up and need to apologize, but sometimes the act of showing that you know you messed up, or showing that you care is what really matters. Enough Said is a great film because it cares about the people that it’s talking about. Holofcener is a good director but is a tremendous writer who should be getting greater notice after showcasing an enviable longevity.