If 'American Hustle' is the year's best Martin Scorsese movie that wasn't directed by Martin Scorsese, then 'Enough Said,' a delightful and perceptive social comedy about second-chance love, friendship, and parenting, is the year's best Woody Allen movie that wasn't directed by Woody Allen. Nicole Holofcener ('Friends with Money') helmed this project and, like Allen, also wrote the excellent screenplay, which mixes equal parts irony, coincidence, and emotional connection into a cohesive slice-of-life tale. Laced with warmth, wit, and wisdom, this charming diamond-in-the-rough focuses on a group of down-to-earth people tackling mundane yet vitally important life issues in a relatable manner. Comedy and drama abound, but never on a grand, cinematic scale. To her everlasting credit, Holofcener keeps things real, and in so doing makes us not only look at the figures on the screen, but also at ourselves.
Holofcener, much like Allen, creates instant intimacy - in relationships, setting, and situation - thrusting us into the social, familial, and professional spheres of her colorful yet normal characters. And also like Allen, her disarmingly natural and rhythmic dialogue resembles real conversation. Exchanges ebb and flow, often seeming to go nowhere, yet ending on a resonant note that beautifully segues into the next scene. Though Holofcener crafts countless images that please the eye, her simple, straightforward filming style never steals attention from the movie's vibrant personalities.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus defines vibrant, and her portrayal of Eva, a divorced masseuse at a mid-life crossroads, carries this delicate film. A dynamo on television in everything from 'Seinfeld' to her current critically acclaimed series, 'Veep,' Dreyfus brings understated grace to this nuanced role, blending her patented perky quirkiness with an attractive insecurity and vulnerability that make her an irresistible presence. Nobody plays awkward as well as Dreyfus, yet in her dramatic scenes she exudes a winning tenderness and sincerity that never seem false. Though she's enjoyed a stellar career in TV, it's a shame Dreyfus hasn't been cast in more films (she could have replaced Jennifer Aniston in countless parts); aside from her voice-over work in such animated fare as 'Planes' and 'A Bug's Life,' Dreyfus hasn't made a movie in more than 15 years, and that's far too long for someone with her degree of talent. (If I seem like a Dreyfus fan, it's because I am. Like it was yesterday, I remember seeing her perform in an improvisational comedy revue back when we were both students at Northwestern University in the early 1980s, along with her husband, Brad Hall. In one skit, she did a multi-faceted impersonation of Mary Tyler Moore combining iconic moments from 'The Dick Van Dyke Show,' 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show,' and 'Ordinary People' that to this day remains one of the funniest bits I've ever seen. Two years later, she brought that same brand of inspired sketch humor to 'Saturday Night Live.')
'Enough Said' follows Eva as she struggles to deal with her only child's impending departure for college and manage both a burgeoning romantic relationship with Albert (James Gandolfini), a burly slob with ear hair, and a blossoming friendship with Marianne (Catherine Keener), a pretentious, narcissistic poet. Though physically Albert is far from the type of man Eva is usually attracted to - at one point, he quips, "I was raised like a veal; put in a dark room, fed, and told not to move" - their temperaments and attitudes are a perfect match and they quickly develop a comfortable rapport. Eva expresses her enthusiasm about the relationship to Marianne, who counters with a litany of complaints about her insufferable ex-husband, who in many ways resembles Albert. Of course, Eva soon puts two-and-two together and realizes Marianne's ex doesn't just resemble Albert, he is Albert, and Marianne's constant bitching and sniping about how he drove her crazy begins to color Eva's view of him and poison their union.
Though the movie's central conflict hinges on a far-fetched coincidence (a device I generally don't like), the characters' reactions to the situations always ring true. And rather than employing the twist simply to wring laughs, Holofcener uses it to make cogent statements about the insidious nature of perception, as well as trusting one's heart instead of one's head. She also explores deeper elements through Eva and Albert's interactions with their respective daughters; just as the girls come of age, so too do their parents, albeit in different ways.
If Dreyfus is the heart of 'Enough Said,' then Gandolfini is most definitely its soul. The actor died before the film was released, and his passing at times casts a pall over the picture. I often caught myself thinking, "I can't believe he's gone"...so vital is his imposing presence, so alive is his unassuming portrayal. The film hinges on his chemistry with Dreyfus, and the two play off each other beautifully, as if they'd been doing it for years. Though Tony Soprano will be his greatest legacy, 'Enough Said' should be considered another high point in a distinguished career that ended much too soon.
Touching and meaningful, yet light-hearted and endlessly engaging, 'Enough Said' stands as one of 2013's best comedies. The simple yet incisive script and top-flight performances by a terrific ensemble cast set this film apart from typical genre entries, infusing it with a warmth and spirit that linger long after the closing credits roll. Do yourself a favor and seek it out.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Enough Said' arrives on Blu-ray packaged in a standard case inside a glossy sleeve. A 50GB dual-layer Blu-ray disc and leaflet that provides an access code to download the Digital HD Ultraviolet digital copy sit snugly inside the case. Video codec is 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 and default audio is DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Once the disc is inserted into the player, previews for 'Baggage Claim,' 'Romeo & Juliet,' and 'At Middleton' precede the full-motion menu with music.
A lush yet natural-looking transfer complements the movie's intimate plot and enhances the viewing experience. The 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 effort from Fox exudes a cozy warmth that draws us into the story and makes the action feel more immediate. Excellent contrast and top-notch clarity increase the illusion of depth and spotlight fine details in background elements. Colors are vibrant and nicely saturated, from the bold primaries of various clothing items to the subtle pastels of furniture upholstery. Black levels sport plenty of richness, whites stay balanced, and fleshtones are stable and true throughout.
Close-ups are especially sharp, highlighting facial details well. Shadow delineation is also quite good, with no noticeable instances of crush afflicting the picture. No noise, banding, or other anomalies could be detected, and the source material remains free of any specks, lines, or scratches. This is a first-rate transfer overall that doesn't overtly dazzle the senses, but is very satisfying and eminently watchable.
If you're looking for a disc to show off your audio system, I probably don't have to tell you this isn't it. Though 'Enough Said' features a clear, well-modulated DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, there's not much surround activity or noticeable stereo separation of which to speak. Ambient effects are limited, no bursts of bass provide periodic rumbles, and no distinct accents perk up the mix. Dynamic range is certainly wide enough, but there are no extreme sounds to test it. Distortion, however, is never an issue, and no surface noise or other imperfections compromise the audio's integrity.
Dialogue, of course, is the star, and the track properly showcases it. Every word is well prioritized and easy to understand, and the understated music score, which nicely fills the room, complements the action without overwhelming it. Though no bells and whistles distinguish this track, no hiccups disrupt it either. This is good, solid audio - nothing more, nothing less - and nothing else would be appropriate for a film of this sort.
Several promotional featurettes comprise the bulk of the disc's supplemental package. In typical EPK fashion, all are filled with clips from the film and the usual smattering of cast and crew interviews. An audio commentary would have been a nice addition, but one is not included here.
Wise, funny, adult, and wonderfully Woody Allen-esque, 'Enough Said' is a charming social comedy that archly examines love, friendship, marriage, parenting, and the inherent quirkiness of all human relationships. Writer-director Nicole Holofcener subtly gets to the heart of many mundane yet potent issues while putting a humorous spin on almost all of them, and the warm, understated, insightful performances by Julia Louis-Dreyfus, James Gandolfini (in his penultimate role), Catherine Keener, and Toni Collette make every situation ring true. Fox's Blu-ray presentation features a first-class video transfer, suitable audio, and too-slick supplements that don't reflect the movie's depth. As the saying goes, the best things come in small packages, and 'Enough Said' is a modest gem of a movie that those who appreciate character studies and hopeful slice-of-life stories will enjoy, savor, and respect. Highly recommended.