Enough Said is delightfully tender and beautifully acted, a relief amidst the prestige-level dramas that begin to take themselves very seriously this time of year. Director Nicole Holofcener examines a world of middle-aged couples that look for happiness but do not have the time for bullshit and heartbreak, with Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) being the focus. She’s a divorced masseuse who lives with her teenage daughter, preparing to leave for college in a few months and leaving Eva all by herself. She decides to go to a party one night with her friends Sarah (Toni Collette) and Will (Ben Falcone), where she runs into a poet named Marianne (Catherine Keener). They hit it off, Eva gives Marianne her number to call for any massages, and they part ways. A friendship buds there. Eva also runs into Albert (James Gandolfini), a large man who works at a library for cultural history; long story short, he preserves old television shows. They talk about how they aren’t attracted to anyone at the party, only for Eva to realize later that Albert asked for her number.

Eva doesn’t find him physically attractive, which explains why she’s skeptical to go on a date with him. But she gives the man a chance, with the date starting rough, but them getting along until the night ends. No kiss goodbye, but a mere handshake, leads to them parting ways, yet there’s something strangely romantic about the exchange. The reason so much of this film works is Louis-Dreyfus’s performance, her first film leading role since 1997’s Deconstructing Harry. She carries such a relatable approach to the material in the interactions with her daughter (Tracey Fairway) and Chloe (Tavi Gevinson), her daughter’s friend that spends most of her days at their house. There’s a way that Eva discusses life matters and how she grasps onto what she wants herself that gives her moments with Marianne even more poignancy; as Marianne berates her ex-husband and talks of how much she despises him, Eva begins to question her new relationship by seeing the similarities in the men. Yet Louis-Dreyfus never undersells that.

This is one of James Gandolfini’s final performances. How bittersweet it is. He carries such a compassion with his character, a man that has faced marital struggles before and can’t bear the thought of the same thing happening to Eva; he never tells her how much he loves her, but Gandolfini does that with a mere glance. As we hear these characters discussing middle age and how much more life remains after it, there’s a melancholy that washes over us. Gandolfini died at such a young age that this performance showcases all he had to offer; for every role that demonstrated how strong and powering he could be (The Sopranos, Killing Them Softly, Zero Dark Thirty), he had ones that showed his sweetness and care for others (Not Fade Away, a gem from last year, comes to mind). The supporting performances only enhance the film’s charm and gentility with the story it wants to tell. It’s a light-hearted, emotionally affecting work.

Grade: ★★★ (out of 5)

Written by Eric Forthun