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‘Enough Said’: James Gandolfini shows his lovable side

JuliLouis-Dreyfus James Gandolfini 'Enough Said.'

Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini in "Enough Said."

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‘ENOUGH SAID’ ★★★1⁄2

Eva Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Albert James Gandolfini

Marianne Catherine Keener

Sarah Toni Collette

Chloe Tavi Gevinson

Fox Searchlight presents a film written and directed by Nicole Holofcener. Running time: 93 minutes. Rated PG-13 (for sexual content, some thematic material and brief language). Opens Friday at local theaters.

Updated: October 28, 2013 6:02AM



James Gandolfini’s first appearance in “Enough Said” will quite likely take you out of the story for just a bittersweet moment.

I know it did for me. Whether it was his signature role in “The Sopranos” or the terrific character work in films ranging from “True Romance” to “Zero Dark Thirty,” the bearish Gandolfini was always a welcome presence in just about anything he did, and you can’t help but reflect on his recent and sudden passing when you see him in one of his last film roles.

But here’s a lovely thing. After a career playing mobsters, hit men, heavies and military figures, Gandolfini plays that rarest of types in “Enough Said.” He’s a middle-aged man who falls in love with a middle-aged woman. And he delivers one of the richest performances of his career.

Gandolfini’s Albert and Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Eva are both divorced, both with teenage daughters about to go off to college. They’re also smart, funny, world-weary — and pleasantly surprised to find themselves courting just when they’d reached the point where romance didn’t even seem to be an option.

“I don’t find a single person at this party to be attractive,” Eva admits to Albert after just meeting him at a lavish outdoor gathering. “No offense.”

Albert laughs and says he’s not attracted to a single person at the party either.

But there’s a look, and a small connection, and that’s followed by a date, which goes so well Albert moves in for a kiss at the end of the night — but Eva fends him off, telling him not yet, but maybe.

In films such as “Please Give,” “Friends With Money” and “Lovely and Amazing,” writer-director Nicole Holofcener gives us mature, sometimes sardonic, authentic people moving about in a world we recognize. If her characters met some of Woody Allen’s modern characters, they’d probably click — and they’d all be talking clever smack about each other while getting ready for bed later that night.

Louis-Dreyfus’ Eva is a masseuse who lugs her table from house to house, enduring the bad breath, machine-gun chatter and casual thoughtlessness of various clients. Her latest regular is Catherine Keener’s Marianne, who tells Eva, “I’m a poet,” to which Eva replies, “And I’m a dreamer” — but Marianne really is a poet, and her entire home looks like a layout for a Martha Stewart photo shoot.

Now we have to issue a SPOILER ALERT regarding a major twist in the story, so, you know, SPOILER ALERT.

Once Eva gets past her lack of immediate physical attraction to Albert, she realizes he’s a wonderful, caring, gentle man, and she’d be crazy not to explore a possible romance. But then she learns one of her clients is actually Albert’s ex-wife — and instead of dropping the client and telling Albert about this crazy coincidence, she keeps it a secret from both of them, prying the client for information about Albert’s bad habits and using that ammo to criticize Albert and doubt her feelings for him.

Meanwhile, Eva’s neglecting her own daughter in favor of her daughter’s best friend (Tavi Gevinson), who confides in Eva, snuggles up with Eva for late-night movies and even meets Albert before Eva’s own kid has the chance.

Two strikes against Eva. She’s tone-deaf to her daughter’s needs, and she’s manipulating Albert and Albert’s ex-wife because of her own insecurities. It’s a tribute to Louis-Dreyfus’ boundless likability and Holofcener’s writing that even though we’re exasperated by Eva’s actions, we can understand where she’s coming from and we’re still mostly rooting for her.

Mostly.

“Enough Said” is filled with snappy one-liners, most of them delivered by Eva and Albert, but the jokes come about naturally. The cynicism of some of the supporting characters occasionally crosses the line into a bitterness that’s not pretty to witness, but not necessarily something we don’t see in people who have reached a certain point in their lives when they should be happy but they’re not really happy — and that pisses them off even more.

Kids going off to college are usually scared. Parents sending their kids to college are usually terrified. “I guess we’ll have to get hobbies,” says Eva to Albert, in the early moments of their relationship, before it all explodes under the crushing weight of Eva’s lies.

Whether Albert is proudly showing Eva around the library of television where he works as a curator, chastising his daughter for being a brat, defending his methods for eating guacamole, lamenting his failed diets over the years or explaining why he refuses to have end tables in his bedroom, Gandolfini is effortlessly, quietly great. Given the rare chance to shine in a leading film role after more than two decades of excellence on TV, Louis-Dreyfus doesn’t miss a beat.

It’s 2013. For every movie about two people on the verge of 50 falling in love, we get about 20 movies about flying superheroes. “Enough Said” is a rarity.

Email: rroeper@suntimes.com

Twitter: @richardroeper



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