Humor and heart, delivered with trademark insight by writer-director Nicole Holofcener and exquisite humanness by actor James Gandolfini in his final leading role, allow the romantic comedy "Enough Said" to overcome the drawbacks of its genre formula and triumph as an amusing, affecting tale about midlife and post-divorce love.
As with Holofcener's previous comedies ("Lovely and Amazing," "Please Give"), the film features themes of mother-daughter relationships, body image and generally fortunate people who, for reasons of guilt, insecurity or self-frustration, say terrible things and behave rottenly.
The setting is again L.A.'s West Side. Cosmetic-mindedness reigns, but meaningful connection, when it happens, shines in Holofcener's world.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays Eva, a divorced, middle-aged masseuse who, in scenes that suggest a mostly sunny life tinged with Sisyphus, lugs her massage table to upscale clients' homes.
At a party, Eva meets Albert (Gandolfini), a divorced 50-ish TV archivist. The two share apprehensions about the impending departures of their college-bound daughters (Tracey Fairaway, Eve Hewson). Shortly thereafter, they start dating.
Although Eva has issues with his weight and sloppiness, she finds Albert funny, sweet and good in bed. The relationship deepens.
Complications occur when Eva's new friend, Marianne (Catherine Keener), a poet whose elegant home and serene glamour the insecure Eva admires, begins harshly knocking her own ex-husband. Marianne's descriptions of her ex soon identify him as none other than Albert.
Scared, Eva tells neither Marianne nor Albert of her relationship with the other. Instead, she wonders if Marianne's assessment of Albert as a slovenly bore without self-control contains merit.
The film's comic thrust largely hinges on how Eva handles this farcical development.
Structurally, the movie is a rom-com, and, accordingly, it can feel frustratingly safe and predictable. Yet it remains a smart, funny story about second-chance love and the middle-age relationship thicket.
Gandolfini (who died in June) gives a performance of warmth, ease and depth. The film does justice to his talent for comedy.
Louis-Dreyfus is more sitcommy, but she shares a sparkling chemistry with her co-star. Whether Eva is telling Albert that his hands look like "paddles," or Albert is remarking that he's taken up weaving (to her relief, he's kidding), the two stars, crucially, keep viewers rooting for their characters.
The film also features satisfying turns from Keener, again playing a Holofcener character filled with subsurface aggression, and Toni Collette as Eva's therapist friend, who has her own set of hang-ups.
Teen blogger Tavi Gevinson appears as Chloe, a friend of Eva's daughter. In the most interesting subplot, Eva, struggling to separate from her own daughter, forms a substitute maternal bond with the girl.
Starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus, James Gandolfini, Catherine Keener, Toni Collette
Written and directed by Nicole Holofcener
Running time 1 hour, 33 minutes