Parents Are the Problem in Enough Said

Review of Enough Said, Directed by Nicole Holofcener 

Today’s media critics are fond of saying that TV is the new cinema. More and more, big-screen directors like Rian Johnson (Looper) and Agnieszka Holland (The Secret Garden) are finding an outlet through cable dramas like Breaking Bad and The Wire. And the trend isn’t limited to directors: Actors familiar from the movies (Steve Buscemi and Michael Shannon, Boardwalk Empire) also are finding a home on TV, which is no longer considered a fallback for past-their-prime Hollywood stars.

The connection between TV and cinema also is a two-way street, as the new film Enough Said proves. Starring Veep Emmy winner and sitcom queen Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Seinfeld, The New Adventures of Old Christine) and Sopranos star James Gandolfini, the comedy elevates a sitcom-level premise to something richer, if still at times frustrating. Enough Said is a character-driven story about people who have bought into some of the worst tendencies of modern parents. However, it’s not clear that writer-director Nicole Holofcener recognizes all of their follies. To the extent Holofcener sees her characters’ obvious shortcomings, Enough Said is another of the filmmaker’s perceptive stories or relationship perils, but the nagging sense that Holofcener might have gone further with her critique of parenting pitfalls keeps Enough Said from being an even better film than it is. 

Eva (Louis-Dreyfus), a masseuse living in Southern California, meets Albert (Gandolfini) at a party, where both profess not to be attracted to anyone. They share their stories—he’s a TV archivist and they’re both divorced, with children about to head off to college. Soon they’re on a date, sharing about their exes and commiserating about a future without kids.

At the same party Eva meets Marianne (Holofcener regular Catherine Keener), a poet in need of a masseuse—and a friend. Marianne makes an appointment, and a friendship blossoms. As Eva massages Marianne, she learns about Marianne’s previous marriage to a man she came to loathe—an overweight slob to whom she wasn’t attracted, in a relationship that was cold and unfulfilling.

Marianne’s ex, Eva comes to discover, is Albert, and Enough Said becomes primarily a story of when Eva will risk her budding friendship by telling Marianne she’s involved with the man Marianne can’t stand, and risk her new relationship with Albert by telling him she’s befriended the person who most despises him.

The leads are well played by Louis-Dreyfus and Gandolfini, but Enough Said is strongest when it goes beyond the predictable (if well executed) dynamic of the central relationship to explore the lives of friends and family closest to the central protagonists. They have problems of their own, but they shed light on the more troubling tendencies of the lead characters. For instance, Eva wants to be her daughter’s friend, even as her daughter pulls away because, she says later, she’s trying to prepare for moving away for the coming school year. That’s not the case for the daughter’s best friend, who’s willing to share with Eva her hopes about having her first sexual experience—something that Eva encourages. (Eva’s comeuppance on this late in the film is one of the more gratifying moments in Enough Said, a sign that Holofcener isn’t completely at sea in terms of proper generational boundaries.)

Why is Eva so attached to her own daughter? Why can’t she see the problems that her desire to be her daughter’s best friend is creating for both of them? Albert’s fixation on his daughter’s happiness is similarly misguided but plays a smaller role in Enough Said.

Then there are Eva’s friends Sarah and Will (Toni Collette and Ben Falcone), a married couple with just-below-the-surface issues with each other that bubble up in their discussions in front of friends. Although there are signs of trouble in their relationship, Sarah and Will have managed to remain married—their first—while the other characters are divorced. How have they managed to stay together rather than split up? Enough Said doesn’t provide an answer, or even raise the question. It’s content to show Sarah and Will struggle with barely submerged hostilities toward each other. And yet it’s Sarah and Will, not so much Eva and Albert, that most interested this viewer.

Enough Said is, on balance, a nicely performed, gentle comedy about second chances. But its characters’ choices are sometimes frustrating and self-defeating—just like real life. Even with its insights into human foibles, Enough Said doesn’t show insight into any solutions. That makes for an enjoyable, if sometimes frustrating viewing experience.

Enough Said is rated R for sexual content, nudity, language, some disturbing images and brief drug use.


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