“Enough Said” Movie Review
When you think about coming of age stories (“bildungsroman”), you probably think about formative summers or teenagers bumbling about trying to “find themselves” and fall in love. You probably think of films like The Spectacular Now or Like Crazy, and rightfully so. Growing up is all about self-discovery and developing a life that will make you happy, in many cases stripping away the influences and people that are holding you back so that you can flourish.
This is something reserved for your youth, when you have time for it, so you don’t always think about people in their thirties and forties as trying to find themselves. The middle-aged are an under-represented population that is unfairly expected to “be adults” and “have it together”, but in recent history there’s been increased interest in movies that feature these adults that don’t have it all together at all, even when they do have houses, spouses, and children.
Nicole Holofcener‘s Enough Said is one such movie. Enough Said stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Eva, a divorced masseuse whose daughter is about to move away for college. The late James Gandolfini co-stars as her similarly divorced love interest, Albert, an overweight and self-proclaimed slob whose daughter is also about to leave for college. Eva and Albert meet at a random party of their friends’ friends’ where sparks fizzle rather than fly. Friendly conversation between the two of them is enjoyable to watch and borders flirtatious without energy. Al gets her number from one of those mutual friends of her friend and the two begin dating, finding comfort in a new relationship and relating to their experiences dealing with divorce and anticipation of an empty nest.
Enough Said is a breath of fresh air. The characters are realistic and relatable, and the two leads are charismatic on screen and have great chemistry with one another. Eva’s character is a strong female lead and Louis-Dreyfus conveys the rounded edges to her personality quite well. She’s a caring woman who is largely content with her life. Despite being single for a lengthy period of time and lugging her heavy massage table with her everywhere for work, she is far from being unhappy. She doesn’t need the comfort of a relationship but is willing to accept love when it comes her way, albeit with a great deal of skepticism. She isn’t necessarily damaged from her divorce but her past experiences have made her wary of relationships and a bit jaded at her future prospects for love. Albert is a kind, humorous person that is easy to talk to and even easier for her to relate to. But Albert is also a deeply flawed person, as is every other character in Enough Said. Some of the tertiary characters are a bit one-note, but they add enough to the atmosphere to make it work.
The film felt like curiously like The Kids Are All Right in that it was a perfectly executed portrayal of white, middle-class people of a certain under-represented minority. In The Kids Are All Right we grappled with the issues that affected a family with two lesbian mothers and how relationships unraveled when the two children’s sperm donor came into the mix. In Enough Said, we contend with how people process and rebound after divorce and the impact it has on future relationships and families. Neither of these films relies on gimmicks or cliches to make it work. These are real people with real issues that struggle, fail, and move on. They both straddle the perfect middle-ground of realism that avoids both blind optimism and depressing cynicism.
For some reason, watching Enough Said made me think of movies like This is 40, Bridesmaids, and Blue Jasmine. The plight of middle-aged adults is coming to the forefront of our culture’s media in recent history. Particularly when you look at Bridesmaids, Enough Said, and Blue Jasmine, you see the common thread of a woman in her mid-forties trying to rebound from an unfortunate situation. Granted, the individual stories are very different, but it’s interesting comparing the three perspectives under the unifying thread. The comedy of Bridesmaids has everything work out for the main character in the end. There’s a musical number by Wilson Phillips, fireworks, and Annie’s British cop boyfriend sweeps her off her feet (no doubt to bring her to her new cupcake factory that will fix her financial misery). It’s over the top, wonderful, and exactly what we expect from a comedy like Bridesmaids.
But for the dramatic film like Enough Said or Blue Jasmine, you need something more realistic. You need your main characters to make enough mistakes that they’ll get backed into a corner so we can see how they handle despair. We long to watch them seek forgiveness for themselves, and they should (in most cases) find it (Hint: because we want the same mercy for ourselves when we make mistakes, whether we realize this or not). Despite what hipsters and contrarians might say, nobody wants a story that will make life seem more bleak than we previously thought. Who needs that? Who wants that? I’ve screamed far and wide about my distaste for Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine and some of his other recent work. Allen heedlessly judges and condemns his characters without even giving them a chance at personal, moral, or thematic success. He’s an utterly contemptuous filmmaker whose bleakest stories should be viewed by everyone as a slap in the face. Movies can be depressing so long a they are informative, but the only thing Blue Jasmine and To Rome With Love convey is how little respect Woody Allen has for his viewership. The collective message between these two movies is, “Unless you are perfect, life is going to suck for you. In other news: nobody is perfect. But if you are a rich celebrity, then life is sort of awesome and you can do whatever you want. Actually, you should just do whatever you want regardless because nothing matters and you’re just going to get screwed over anyway, so why not just cheat/lie/steal/be uber selfish?”
I only bring up my personal war against Woody Allen because Blue Jasmine fails precisely where Enough Said excels. Both films center on a previously married woman in her forties trying to derive some meaning in a life that seems to be shifting under her feet. You want Jasmine to succeed. You want Eva to succeed. Woody Allen has Jasmine fail miserably and we learn that there is no redemption for the flawed, no compassion for the weak. It’s unfair, presumptuous, and frankly, arrogant beyond measure. It’s okay for Jasmine and/or Eva to fail so long as it’s logical and sensical. Blue Jasmine‘s ending is brutal, and it doesn’t work when the movie posits itself as honest when it’s actually just contrived BS from start to finish.
I’m not spoiling anything when I say that Eva in Enough Said makes one big mistake out of fear and self-interest. Other little mistakes are made along the way, and all of these mistakes, big and small, are met with justifiable consequences. The punishment needs to fit the crime in cinema for it to feel “real” and cathartically sound. We are satisfied as viewers when we see crimes punished and even more so when people rise above their flaws and resolve their inner conflicts. Eva knows what she did wrong and tries her best to make things better as things unravel. Whether or not she is successful at receiving forgiveness is for you to see, but the fact remains that for a dramatic film to be effective, you need to have an arc that communicates a message worth hearing.
PS. I have no idea why this movie is called “Enough Said”! If you figure it out, let me know.