By John Anderson | Thompson on Hollywood September 8, 2013 at 1:43PM
The departure of James Gandolfini will never seem as poignantly premature as it does during “Enough Said,” Nicole Holofcener’s lovely heartbreak of a comedy starring the late actor and Julia Louis Dreyfus, as late-inning love interests. Holofcener’s latest rumination on modern manners would be tart regardless, with its well-publicized premise: Eva, a romance-challenged masseuse and single mom (Louis-Dreyfus) acquires a new boyfriend (Gandolfini) and a new best friend (Catherine Keener) in the same week, listens to them trash their exes, and then (lightbulb!) discovers they were married to each other. But even though it’s a situation comedy, writ large, at no time does the film not feel fresh, thanks to Holofcener’ gifts as a comedy director, and to a pair of leads who make you feel all the uncertainty, doubt, fear and regrets of middle age, and the shock/ joy at finding love when it seemed utterly impossible.
That Holofecner has two TV icons working in the leads roles might have seemed like a handicap. That, and the fact that she’s operating in familiar territory, demographically, sociologically and emotionally – even if we’re in Los Angeles for this particular journey. She’s good to Gandolfini, while recognizing that men are hapless, but the women are what she’s really about, and Louis-Dreyfus is given material that makes her bore into inner selves we never knew she had.
Struggling, feeling like a failure at life – even though her beautiful daughter is college bound and she maintains a good relationship with her ex-husband – she’s spinning her wheels in a lot of ways and Louis-Dreyfus, operating on the razor’s edge of whining, makes her real. And hopeful: Albert, whom she meets at a party and who echoes her lack of attraction to anyone there, is the kind of guy with whom a relationship needs to be cultivated. And vice versa. One of the great things about “Enough Said” is its recognition that people with enough miles on their odometers aren’t necessarily looking to march into the mire of romance. But when they do, the stakes are just as high as they ever were.