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TORONTO - Over the course of her four previous pictures, Nicole Holofcener has proven to be one of the most observant and insightful American filmmakers working today. Her latest endeavor, "Enough Said," would be noteworthy just based on the fact that its star, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, hasn't appeared in a live action movie since 1997's "Deconstructing Harry." Sadly, what has put the film on the radar of many moviegoers is the fact its features one of the last performances of the late, great James Gandolfini.
Back in Los Angeles after a New York detour for "Please Give," Holofcener puts Louis-Dreyfus front and center as Eva, a divorced, middle-aged massage therapist dealing with the uncomfortable reality that her only daughter (an OK Tracey Fairaway) will soon be heading to college. Dragged to a party by her best friend Sarah (Toni Collette) and Sarah's husband Will (Ben Falcone), Eva ends up meeting two people who will immediately become part of her life. The first is Marianne, a popular poet (really) played by longtime Holofcener collaborator Catherine Keener and the second is Albert, a portly divorcee portrayed by Gandolfini. The two find something in common as Albert's daughter is also on her way out the door to art school. Unbeknownst to Eva or the audience, however, Marianne and Albert have a very personal connection that will cause trouble down the road. In the meantime, Marianne seems to be a confidante Eva didn't know she was missing in her life. And while she doesn't immediately find him attractive, when Albert asks her out on a date she wearily agrees.
The romance between Albert and Eva is the best part of the film thanks to the natural chemistry between multiple Emmy Award winners Gandolfini and Louis-Dreyfus. The latter sometimes falls into the familiar mannerisms we've seen in her television work, but for the most part her comedic timing and unexpected vulnerability make you wish we didn't have to wait 16 years to see her on the big screen again. Gandolfini, on the other hand, is quietly subdued as a man still suffering from a humiliating divorce and a fashion forward daughter (Eve Hewson) who is slightly embarrassed by her father's less-than-hip choices. The "Sopranos" icon smartly plays Albert on an even keel as not to overpower Louis-Dreyfus (something that would be tough to do anyway) and brings a subtle sadness to the role.
Both actors benefit from Holofcener's fantastic dialogue, one of her greatest strengths, but the final result isn't as satisfying as some of her more recent efforts. "Enough Said" has a glossier Hollywood sheen and yet is still somehow less visually interesting than "Please Give" or even "Friends with Money." In fact, Xavier Pérez Grobet is the fifth different cinematographer she's worked with in a row. There was something with D.P. Yaron Orbach that clicked with her "Please Give" screenplay and direction that's missing this time around. Among the supporting cast, Collette and Falcone are very entertaining as a couple showing signs of wear and tear. Keener benefits from playing one of the more interestingly conceived characters in the picture, a poet who preaches harmony and happiness, but privately can't get past her own peculiar hang-ups.
"Enough Said" opens in limited release on Sept. 18.