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(2013) (Julie Louis-Dreyfus, James Gandolfini) (PG-13)

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Dramedy: A divorced masseuse starts dating a man, unaware that he's her new client's ex-husband.
Eva (JULIE LOUIS-DREYFUS) is a divorced masseuse who isn't pleased that her daughter, Ellen (TRACEY FAIRAWAY), is about to head off to college, all of which has resulted in Eva starting to latch onto Ellen's friend, Chloe (TAVI GEVINSON). Attending a party with her married friends Sarah (TONI COLLETTE) and Will (BEN FALCONE), she not only meets and lands poet Marianne (CATHERINE KEENER) as a new client, but she also meets Albert (JAMES GANDOLFINI). He works at a TV history library and despite her initially not being attracted to him physically, Eva sees a kindred spirit due to the fact that he's also divorced and has a daughter, Tess (EVE HEWSON), who's likewise headed off for college.

Eva and Albert start dating and seem to be hitting it off, all while she becomes closer friends with Marianne who confides in her all of the problems she had with her ex. Unbeknownst to Eva, Albert is Marianne's ex-husband. Upon discovering that, she must decide how to proceed, especially as Marianne's negative and poisonous view of Albert starts to affect Eva's view of him.

OUR TAKE: 7 out of 10
The old saying is that familiarity breeds contempt. While that doesn't seem to apply that often to friendships, it certainly does at times to coworkers, room or housemates, and most definitely to those who are dating, living together or are married. It isn't that surprising that the non-romantic close quarters can lead to such animosity, but it's always somewhat surprising that it does with the romantic ones, although the current divorce rate in the U.S. clearly bears witness to that fact.

After all, those affected people are supposed to be in love and hopefully operate from an unconditional love standpoint. That's usually the case at the beginning of such relationships where the other person's behavior, physical appearance and such are endearing, cute or any number of other positive adjectives to the beholder. And that's because not only is love blind, but pointing out any perceived shortcomings or irritating behavior can kill a relationship during the budding stage. Yet, with time, what was once acceptable becomes a source of friction and people either learn to live with it and/or change their mindset, or it reaches the boiling point and things end.

In the romantic dramedy "Enough Said," that entire process is accelerated thanks to the plot development that writer/director Nicole Holofcener ("Friends With Money," "Lovely & Amazing") comes up with in this winning offering. And that is that the new boyfriend (the late, great James Gandolfini) of a divorced masseuse (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) just so happens to the ex to the woman's new client (Catherine Keener) who has nothing good to say about the man.

Like any effective but slow-working venom, Marianne's poisonous views take a toll on Eva's view of Albert. While that might sound mean and not particularly entertaining to watch (and the second half admittedly isn't as fun as the first in that regard), the filmmaker wisely plays much of the material in a light and near sitcomish way. The latter attribute arises from the fact that the protagonist is caught in a quandary that doesn't exactly come off as realistic.

Sure, she initially isn't aware of the former relationship between the two characters, none of which is a surprise as it's easy to figure out even if you haven't seen the trailer that reveals it as the film's big draw. It's the fact that once she knows, she can't break off either relationship (boyfriend to him, friend and confidante to her) even when it's blatantly clear which is the obviously better choice. Granted, dumping the poisonous friend would remove the conflict and thus drama, but I kept wanting Holofcener to come up with a better and more believable reason for Eva to stay the course.

Thankfully, the filmmaker avoids the very pitfall that bedevils the central relationship -- namely that what we find cute in the film's first half doesn't become irritating in the second. And that's thanks to some smart, funny and astutely observational dialogue (all of which makes the screenplay worthy of some award nomination love come that time of year) as well as good performances from the leads and supporting performers.

All of which leads to the dispiriting aspect of this being Gandolfini's penultimate performance (his last film, "Animal Rescue," is set to be released in 2014). While the actor became synonymous with his violent and troubled "Sopranos" alter-ego, Gandolfini was a terrific character actor who could deliver more with just his eyes than other lesser performers could manage with their entire physicality. The same holds true here, where there's a sense of sadness and acceptance of his lot in life just beneath the rest of his character's demeanor. It's a terrific, understated performance that shows just how talented the man was. He and his work that will never be will truly be missed.

Louis-Dreyfus is saddled with the more sitcom-style character and related behavior, but the actress makes the best of it and digs deeper than one might expect from the setup. That's particularly true regarding her being a single mom raising a daughter (Tracey Fairaway), a theme that also applies to Gandolfini's character (Eve Hewson plays his kid), while the offspring (Tavi Gevinson) of another single mom is also around as something of a new surrogate daughter for the protagonist. Keener isn't given much opportunity with her poison pill character, but Toni Collette and Ben Falcone have fun with their supporting parts, playing a married couple who both get and don't get each other and their behavior and idiosyncrasies.

Although the plot might go through the expected and predictable motions, it's the small elements that make the film shine, be they from the nuances of the performances or the smart script and entertaining dialogue. While I would have preferred the central plot thrust to be less of the sitcom mold, I found the overall offering to my liking, and thankfully it never got on my nerves or grew old. And that's enough said about "Enough Said." It rates as a 7 out of 10

Reviewed September 20, 2013 / Posted September 27, 2013

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