Let’s get it out of the way. Julia Louis-Dreyfus will be forever immortalized as the socially inept, rhythmless Elaine Benes from Seinfeld — although she’s making a strong case with Selena Meyer in HBO’s Veep. Either way, she’s a student of Saturday Night Live having made her career as characters that are unintentionally funny. But Enough Said, from writer/director Nicole Holofcener, may be the best showcase of her acting range yet.
Set in sunny Los Angeles — with a visual style that’s reminiscent of Holofcener’s directorial work in TV, namely the recently deceased Enlightened — Louis-Dreyfus is Eva, a divorced masseuse counting down the days until her daughter Ellen (Tracey Fairaway) leaves for college. At a party she’s introduced to Albert (James Gandolfini) who later asks her on a date. Not necessarily attracted to the admittedly overweight Albert, she goes out with him and has a wonderful time, despite the initial lack of physical attraction. At the same aforementioned party she meets poet Marianne (Catherine Keener) and what begins as another masseuse/client relationship blossoms into a friendship. Although she begins to really like Albert — who is also divorced — she worries about repeating past mistakes.
It’s a simple, little film about the trials and tribulations of love in middle age. For both Albert and Eva, they can no longer rely on their kids to fill the void as they are embarking on their own lives but they both know heartbreak all too well. While Holofcener’s script is able to get under the surface and really illustrate the complexity of falling in love later life, it’s Louis-Dreyfus’ charming performance that really seals the deal. Instead of playing the butt of the joke — especially in the case of Veep’s Meyer — she owns her humor and plays loose with an astounding wit. Her and Gandolfini also have a refreshing chemistry that’s built organically and blossoms slowly as both are measured in their approach to the relationship.
The film is littered with other great characters, namely Toni Collette (in full Aussie mode) and Ben Falcone as Eva’s delightfully bickering best friends. Newcomer Tavi Gevinson also makes a great turn as Ellen’s best friend Chloe, who begins to treat Eva as a surrogate mother, and whom Eva begins to use to fill the impending void that will be Ellen’s absence. And, of course, there’s James Gandolfini in his penultimate role which only makes his death resonate even more as he proved he was far from showing what he could do as an actor. He exudes a sweetness that’s in contrast to Eva’s knee-jerk reaction to get a laugh.
Louis-Dreyfus proves that she has serious range as an actor — a range that’s been largely underappreciated. Perhaps like Bill Murray she’ll be able mine a second career with more dramatic turns, without having to sacrifice her innate sense of humor. If not, Enough Said will always be a testament to her abilities not as a comedienne, but as an actress.
Rating: 4 out of 5