There’s an interesting shift in Nicole Holofcener’s usual storytelling technique that takes place in her latest film, Enough Said. Most of her big-screen efforts have involved multiple storylines all sharing relatively equal space, sometimes overlapping in the narrative but more likely exhibiting a thematic unity. When Holofcener is at her best–as in 2001’s Lovely & Amazing–the approach works beautifully, smartly conveying the scope of a vexing social dilemma. In Enough Said, there are still a wide array of stories, but they more clearly center around a single figure, a Los Angeles masseuse named Eva, played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus. Beyond the expected result of lending the film a greater unity, it heightens the emotions of the piece. Holofcener often focuses on characters who are somehow adrift, but where some of her other films can feel like commentary, Enough Said effectively comes across as empathetic drama.
It should be noted that it’s a highly comic version of drama. Holofcener has a wry sense of humor and a penchant for gentle satire, showing how people operating in relative privilege and comfort can labor to find cause for self-pity. That may be the overarching thesis of Holofcener’s career, and it manifests most clearly in Enough Said when Eva’s sweet romance with a humble, heavyset man (James Gandolfini) is derailed as she helplessly begins to believe the condemnations of his ex-wife (Holofcener regular Catherine Keener), who coincidentally become one of Eva’s clients at about the same time the courtship began. With expert honestly, Holofcener shows how the slow drift of self-sabotage takes place, including the ways a person can delude themselves into thinking their emotional dishonesty is actually reasonable personal protection. Simultaneously, Eva watches the strange bickering of her married friends Sarah and Will (Toni Collette and Ben Falcone) and preemptively pushes back against empty next syndrome as her daughter (Tracey Fairaway) prepares to head off to Sarah Lawrence College by developing an overly chummy relationship with her daughter’s friend (teen blogger sensation Tavi Gevinson). Holofcener tugs all these different threads effectively, the different experiences all adding up to a complete portrait of a woman gradually coming to terms with the need for minor but valuable reinvention.
The film contains one of Gandolfini’s last roles, and it’s extremely gratifying that he gets to go out with a role that is even-tempered and resolutely kind, essentially in line with who the man was himself, according to most remembrances. Good as her is, the film totally belongs to Louis-Dreyfus, who displays her remarkable ability to edge right up to the point of overacting without pushing over, resulting in a performance infused with personality and notable for thrillingly unique and crafty line deliveries. A longtime titan of television acting, Louis-Dreyfus has by far her best film role here and makes the most of it. She’s funny and entertaining, but she also gets the underlying pathos Holofcener is getting at, the bittersweet quality that often comes with a certain time and place in life. As Holofcener has decided to swirl are her ideas around the one character, Louis-Dreyfus manages to find the withering energy that comes when it feels like every trouble of the world is converging at once. It’s not the making of farce, as other comedies might default to, but of slow motion heartbreak. That’s the truth that Enough Said portrays, doing so with endearing sympathy.