By Simon Miraudo
November 11, 2013
It’s been about fifteen years since Julia Louis-Dreyfus last graced the big screen; an absence I hadn’t even realised. That’s on me. Having now witnessed her comeback effort, Enough Said, it’s an absence I pray we never have to endure again. She’s never been far from the public eye and has nary gone a television season without accruing acclaim and being fantastically funny (you can see her killing it on HBO’s Veep these days, and was previously under the employ of money-printing factory CBS in a show with a particularly unwieldy name). Yet, Louis-Dreyfus’ starring role in Nicole Holofcener’s latest romantic comedy is a powerful reminder that her talents are not limited to stealing sitcoms.
As fifty-something masseuse and divorcée Eva, she’s as incandescent, sprightly, exceptionally comfortable, and emotionally involving as any other buzzed-about ingénue that might be currently enthralling Hollywood casting executives. Almost three decades into her career – and with four Emmys (from sixteen nominations) under her belt – I’m thinking it’s time we resurrect the New Star of the Year category at the Golden Globes and finally get her some true recognition. Call Pia Zadora: there’s a new starlet on the scene!
In the months leading up to her offspring, Ellen (Tracey Fairaway), moving away to college, Eva prepares herself for an impending empty nest by populating her life with similarly lonely souls. She starts dating the sweet, schlubby Albert (James Gandolfini), befriends a client, poet Marianne (Catherine Keener), and takes under her wing Ellen’s latchkey pal Chloe (Tavi Gevinson), slowly transitioning the teen into an ersatz daughter. Eva’s new existence is upended by the realisation that Albert and Marianne are ex husband and wife; a farcical contrivance sold by Holofcener’s understated script, tranquil direction, and Louis-Dreyfus’ expertise in making sitcom plots seem completely normally.
Though Eva knows it’d be best to just reveal to her new beau and BFF their kinda-funny-when-you-think-about-it connection, she decides to press Marianne for information on Albert’s foibles (describing her as a “human ‘Trip Advisor’”), without letting on about their romantic relationship. At her age, she’d much rather know from the get-go what deal-breaking traits he’ll only reveal once the illusion of flirtation and first dates wears away. What Eva fails to realise is the wounded Albert – older and wiser than when Marianne knew him – is more than happy to reveal himself to her (and I’m not just referring to the scene where his penis falls out of his pyjama pants).
The passing of Gandolfini earlier this year only adds further melancholy and pathos to what is already a rather sweet and sad little number; his lumbering, golden-hearted presence warmer than even the sun-drenched cinematography. He and Louis-Dreyfus have a miraculous chemistry, and their romance is more natural than most on celluloid. It’s not the kind of role that will define the hard-man’s career, but I can’t imagine a finer note for an actor as talented – and as reportedly warm – as he was to bow out on.
Theirs are not the only great performances in Holofcener’s work, and kudos to this director for once again drawing fine turns from another mostly-female ensemble. Keener’s Marianne seems to live somewhere outside this movie; a totally fitting choice considering her character’s somewhat transcendent state of mind. The offensively talented Gevinson – tween editor of Rookie magazine and eventual enslaver of all mankind – makes a real impression with her feature debut, recalling a young (well, younger) Michelle Williams. I’ve not even mentioned the presence of Toni Collette and Ben Falcone – delivering decent laughs as Eva’s married friends – which should go some ways to explaining how immensely talented and innately watchable everyone here is.
Holofcener’s script is humane, beautifully realised, and funny in all the right ways. Her time directing shows Parks and Recreation and Enlightened was well spent, and likely further honed her already-instinctive ability to capture the trials of women yearning for personal satisfaction (and still being super-hilarious in the process). There’s also a boldness and frankness to Enough Said, simply through the way in which it deals with later-in-life sexual liaisons. Yes, by addressing this (maddeningly) taboo subject and not making a big deal about it means this film is – by most rom-com standards – practically revolutionary.
Enough Said gifts us with a lovely tribute to the late Gandolfini, returns Louis-Dreyfus to screens in a seismic fashion, conveys beautifully the rarely-seen tale of a fifty-something courtship, and passes the (occasionally limiting) Bechdel test with flying colours. It’s been many moons since a romantic comedy delighted me so, and an eon since one enraptured audiences. The unassuming Enough Said may not set the box office on fire, but it confirms that the rom-com is alive and well and living in Louis-Dreyfus. We have an actress to take over the genre and make it thrive once again. Writers, start writing.
Enough Said arrives in Australian cinemas November 14, 2013.