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'Enough Said' review: Cheers, James and Julia

Matt Pais, @mattpais

RedEye movie critic

September 26, 2013

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***1/2 (out of four)

Yes, the sensible thing to do if you discover that your new boyfriend is the ex-husband your new friend’s been discussing would be to tell them both and clear the air.

It’s easy to see, however, how Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfuss) would want to take advantage of her unusual position and act as an emotional double-agent to defend herself from heartbreak. “She’s like a human TripAdvisor,” Eva, a masseuse whose open ears put the “therapist” in massage therapist, says of her pal Marianne (Catherine Keener). The latter speaks at length about how she wasn’t attracted to Albert (the late James Gandolfini) and all the ways he irritated her, not knowing that her confidant’s actually using this material to help determine how she feels about the (same) man in her life.

Writer-director Nicole Holofcener (“Lovely and Amazing,” “Please Give”) has a serious knack for human behavior, particularly when it comes to bickering and mild relationship fractures that expand into breaks. Eva’s pals Sarah (Toni Collette) and Will (Ben Falcone) continually disagree on issues as minor as firing the maid, slowly rising to the point of passive-aggressive speculation about what a second marriage would be like. Would it be better and more mature, as older, wiser veterans hip to their past mistakes? Or would it be exhausting and disappointing to search at a time when frustrating quirks have had decades to settle in?

“I’m tired of being funny,” Eva confesses to Albert in one of many beautifully acted scenes between the two. It’s so great to see a film anchored by these character actors, and not just in the wake of Gandolfini’s tragic passing. Holofcener may revolve “Enough Said” around a coincidence and a somewhat frustrating refusal to come clean, but she more than compensates with the interactions between these parents and their teenagers—including the jealousy that Eva’s daughter, Ellen (Tracey Fairaway), feels for her friend Chloe’s (star Chicago blogger Tavi Gevinson) developing closeness with Eva. The laughs never get in the way of the drama, but, like the characters, the movie’s sadness can’t help but inform the humor.

On that note: Do people, especially men, go see movies like this anymore? I don’t think so. Prove me wrong, people. Prove me wrong.

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com

 

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