Thursday, September 19, 2013
Nicole Holofcener made my top-ten list in 2010 with "Please Give," but her new film, "Enough Said," falls well short of that standard. Too often, the writer-director's insights into human nature and behavior are obscured by a plot barely above the level of "Three's Company" and an overly diffuse script populated by too many characters.
It's fitting that Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays the lead, Eva, a Westside massage therapist and divorced mom whose daughter, Ellen (Tracey Fairaway), is about to leave home for Sarah Lawrence. Fitting because the whole movie has a sitcom feel to it; playing at low stakes, it goes down easy, its somewhat Idiot-Plot-based episodes connected by little more than bridge music. At a party, Eva's introduced to two people: Albert (the late James Gandolfini), a divorced television archivist whose daughter, Tess (Bono's daughter, Eve Hewson), is also bound for New York (Parsons), and Marianne (Catherine Keener), a successful poet with a perfect house and a longtime friendship with Joni Mitchell. Eva takes on Marianne as first a client and then a friend, and enters a halting new romance with Albert. The twist - and I'm not giving away anything the trailer doesn't - is that Albert's ex-wife is Marianne, and Eva starts spending their time together listening to each of them badmouth the other.
It takes Eva - for an otherwise smart Holofcener woman - unduly long to figure this out, and when she does, the obvious thing would be to tell both of them and amicably stop seeing Marianne to work on the most promising relationship she's had with a man in years. Instead, she keeps seeing both, which leaves us in the uncomfortable position of knowing more than the people onscreen and waiting for the penny to drop. (Not to mention it's pretty unethical.) All the while, Eva confides in her shrink friend Sarah (Toni Collette, totally wasted) and double-dates with her and her husband Will (Ben Falcone). There's also a subplot about Ellen's friend Chloe (teen fashion blogger Tavi Gevinson, very natural onscreen), whom Eva offers Ellen's room after Ellen heads east. And there are silly scenes in which Marianne tries to introduce Eva to her daughter, Tess, whom of course Eva's already met while with her father. Enough.
Louis-Dreyfus holds her own on the big screen, though it does her no favors aesthetically and I never really bought her as a masseuse. Gandolfini brings integrity and sweetness to Albert that show again why we'll miss him. But there's just too much going on here for Holofcener to explore any of it in meaningful depth. There are some laughs, to be sure, and some smiles of recognition, but it's all a bit too anodyne.