Enough Said ★★★½

Speaking in generalities, romantic comedies don’t work for me because they have two things in common: a sense of humour that paints characters - typically female protagonists that are meant to endear - with the brush of selfish entitlement or aloof misfortune, and a formula for plot that is as much contrived as it is predictable. The latter usually involves situations that could easily have been avoided if these characters had an ounce of realistic logic, but ultimately we as an audience have learned the Pavlovian way that all of this is moot, and everything will eventually work out. So these two problems are inherently correlated, the weakness of the characters emphasizing and exacerbating the weakness of the plot, and both suffering the same intrinsic defeat.

But what about a film that is clearly poured into this mould, and yet treats its characters with honest humility, in a voice that allows a predictable plot - the staple of the genre - to feel like it exists in reality and not some bizarro world of missed glances and terrible communication? Enough Said is just such a film, a rare occurrence in this genre, containing characters with depth and breadth enough to transcend the predictability of its plot and allow us to engage with the characters beyond a superficial charm.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus is exceptional in the lead role of Eva, and under Nicole Holofcener’s direction, the blossoming chemistry between her and James Gandolfini’s Albert seem beyond believable. They seem real, their body languages and wit unsaturated by the polish and exaggeration typical of films of this one's ilk. And when things start to go awry it’s not because of hyperbolic coincidence, it’s because of the very character flaws that make the characters relatable in the first place.

It’s sad to watch Gandolfini in this role, which he performs with the perfect blend of charm and humility, as it’s a shame to know that we will never see him in more like this one. He truly does a fantastic job here, and one of Holofcener’s greatest accomplishments in this film is achieving a well-rounded believability in all of her characters, not just its leads.

Toni Collette and Ben Falcone, as usual, put forward well-sketched secondary characters that don’t feel dropped in as comic relief. My love for Catherine Keener as an actor left me a little disappointed with her role in this film, as it didn’t really allow for the full extent of her talents - that’s not as much to do with her performance as it is for the need for a fairly unlikeable character. But it’s testament to the shades of grey Holofcener is able to achieve with her characters that we never really love or hate any of them, they are all multi-faceted and human to the point of obvious fault that our perception of them is constantly in flux. It’s a lot like real life.

In short, this wasn’t the film I though it was going to be. On the surface, it’s a predictable romantic comedy that doesn’t push any envelopes. But beneath the surface, it’s a wonderful representation of realistic characters in a believable situation, which - for this genre - is completely refreshing.