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It is difficult to sum up what the merits of 2013's Enough Said without talking about the tragic death of one of its stars before its release. James Gandolfini was quietly and dutifully working on films that were outside of the role of matriarch that he portrayed on The Sopranos, and in this film, one that has its fair share of familiar faces and creative entities, the tragedy of his death proves to resonate all the more so.
The film is written and directed by Nicole Holofcener, responsible for such decent independent works as Friends With Money and Lovely & Amazing. Gandolfini plays Albert, a divorced father who is seeing his daughter about to leave the house to go to college. He is not the star of the film mind you, that is reserved for Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Veep), who finds herself in a similar situation but in a different marriage, and she works as a masseuse. The two meet at a party and hit it off, and also at the party, Eva (Dreyfus) meets and strikes up a friendship with Marianne (Catherine Keener, The Oranges), a quietly well-renowned author and poet. Marianne also enlists Eva's services as a masseuse and the two share stories about their gruesome anonymous ex-husbands. When Eva learns that Marianne's ex is Albert, she tries to reconcile what she learns with her feelings for Albert.
The relationship which Eva and Albert develop over most of the movie is charming in that it is their familiarity of the other's situations and their willingness to drop the pretense of flirting or finding out what the other likes or does not that makes Enough Said refreshing. They poke fun at the other occasionally as their relationship grows and in a perhaps "new" relationship the feelings of the victim may be hurt and the relationship damaged, a testament to their comfort level with each other. This comfort gets into other facets such as introducing their respective children to their new significant other, or even in more intimate moments. And the chemistry between Dreyfus and Gandolfini is a treat to experience.
What is strange to some degree about Enough Said is paradoxical to some extent. For characters such as Eva and Albert to be in such a relationship, that Eva to eventually relent to Mariane's talk about Albert after finding out who the awful ex was comes off as feeling slightly less than genuine. There are humorous moments that come out of it, such as when Eva "coaches" Albert on things such as his behavior in a movie theater, but eventually this becomes mean-spirited, and seems to place Eva in a position of disregarding all of the time she spend with Albert before finding the truth out. Sure, part of the cleverness in the story is to find some empathy with Albert, but casually chucking out the time to spend watching Eva fall in love (or a high level of "like") is slightly challenging for some viewers.
Despite the hoop Eva has to jump through, the role presents Dreyfus with the challenge of exploring something with some emotional depth behind it, and she manages to handle herself quite nicely in it. Gandolfini is somewhat of quiet giant in one of his last performances but there is an understated level of tenderness to it that is charming and as earlier mentioned, the two work better than expected together. Keener plays Marianne in such a way that I would describe as uniquely Keener-esque; she is somewhat breezy in life but she is an extremely kindhearted person who refuses to handle any animosity such as that she experienced with Albert. Rounding out the core ensemble are Toni Collette (The United States Of Tara) and Ben Falcone (The Heat) as Eva's friends. Tracey Fairaway (Zephyr Springs) and Eve Hewson (This Must Be The Place) also turn in good performances as the college bound kids of Eva and Albert, respectively.
While people will remember James Gandolfini as Tony Soprano, it is somewhat unfair to both the man and the film he appeared in. The film itself is charming and funny despite an occasional bump or two and should be seen not only because it is a poignant farewell of sorts to the actor, but is a good film on the whole with good performances. And that's what Enough Said will hopefully be remembered for.
The AVC encode which graces the Blu-ray of Enough Said is quite nice from Fox. Image detail in the foreground with things such as facial hair, pores and wrinkles can be easily spotted, and the backgrounds in things like exterior shots have a small multidimensional feel to them. Colors are reproduced nicely without moments of saturation and film grain is easily discernible during viewing, though there are some moments of haloing that are somewhat distracting. But on the whole, Fox does right by the movie.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless surround track is fine, even if it does not have a lot to do during the film. Dialogue is consistent and firmly placed in the center of the theater, and in the first act when Eva and Albert are in a restaurant that turns its music up during their dinner, the subtle immersion that occurs is effectively done. There is not a lot of dynamic range for the soundtrack to take advantage of, but it is to be expected considering the dialogue driven nature of it. But it is fine to listen to regardless.
A fair amount of stuff (most of it quick) to accompany this disc. "Second Takes" (6:00) is a blooper reel that is surprisingly funny that we see before heading into five small featurettes. "Cast" (5:58) covers just that, their thoughts on working with one another and the crew's thoughts on them, while "Story" (3:31) focuses on their appeal to the material. "Meet Eva and Albert" (2:36) explains the two characters and their relationship to one another, while "Nicole Holofcenter" (3:08) shows us how the writer/director works on-set, and "Julia" (3:00) touches on the film's star. A digital copy of the film for Ultraviolet users completes the package.
Enough Said is different from the usual romantic comedies in that is dispenses with the "drama" of getting involved with someone and in that, it is worth seeing alone. The performances of the ensemble generally and of Dreyfus (in a good change of pace from her normal work) and Gandolfini specifically make it a nice experience throughout. Technically it is quite good and the extras are decent, and worth seeing past any sort of morbid novelty that Gandolfini's performance may possess.