Initially more notable as the last of James Gandolfini than the latest by Nicole Holofcener (Please Give, Walking and Talking), Enough Said is a sweet, intelligent moral comedy that grows on you. The hard work Julia Louis-Dreyfus does to fill the part of Eva pays off—she escapes the shadow of Elaine Benes. In one wounded moment outside a restaurant, grieving over the failure of her first marriage, we see the rawest acting Louis-Dreyfus has ever done. She can be over-vivacious here—a life in sitcoms takes its toll. But she is playing a person who puts a high premium on niceness.
Eva is a freelance masseuse, hauling her heavy massage table to the homes of well-off Los Angeles clients. At a fancy party, she meets a pleasantly bearish archivist, Albert (Gandolfini). They end up in bed, and Eva is surprised to find out how much she enjoys it—she hadn't considered a man with that much belly on him as potential lover material. Albert turns out to be the ex-husband of Eva's newest client, a noted poet named Marianne (Catherine Keener), a woman who is everything Eva would like to be—and the poet's endless dismissive talk of Albert's flaws begins to turn Eva against her new boyfriend.
The author of Rich the Fruit, Marianne is played by Keener with a windblown, russet mane and kaftanoid clothing. It's a dead-on satire of the Eat Pray Love class of writer. Production designer Keith P. Cunningham, better known for blockbusters, erects a wicked parody of a certain kind of Santa Monica lair for Marianne's home—a Balinese/Buddhist temple with swimming pool lagoon, cracking under the weight of throw-pillows.
It's a farce situation, but Holofcener doesn't force it. The witty lines sidle by. And Gandolfini's slitty-eyed, self-amused acting gives this slip of a story gravity. He's quite wrenching to watch. What impact would this movie have had if some other lesser comedy bear had taken the role? I think the answer is "some"—Holofcener examines the way women will sometimes do anything to keep the esteem of other women, even women they might not care for much, and that's not a common subject in films.
And when the couples draw their verbal knives on each other, there are edges on the weapons.
PG-13; 91 min.