Published Sep 19, 2013Writer/director Nicole Holofcener's style, as deceptively simple as it may be, is that of clever social observation. Her characters are often well educated and progressive, in a performative, urban sense, being as informed and socially conscious as they are superficial and inconsiderate. They're flawed, often hypocritical people prone to criticizing others for social faux-pas and thoughtless behaviours while themselves demonstrating many of the characteristics and attributes they so despise.
Much like her other wildly insightful, biting, often hilarious character pieces (Please Give and Lovely & Amazing, in particular), Enough Said introduces a basic premise — a single mother about to send her daughter to college re-enters the dating pool — and lets the characters drive the story. On the sidelines of every scene, there's a rumbling of social analysis that shrewdly watches these characters marinate in their flaws, waiting for everything to reach a boiling point.
Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is a masseuse and divorced mother about to send her only daughter, Ellen (Tracey Fairaway), off to Sarah Lawrence. Going through impending empty nest syndrome, she latches onto Ellen's best friend, Chloe (Tavi Gevinson), and starts dating Albert (James Gandolfini), a man she meets at a party and initially isn't attracted to. At the same function, she strikes up a professional relationship with Marianne (Catherine Keener), a fashionable poet who embodies the lifestyle and aesthetic Eva envies.
What Eva doesn't initially know is that Marianne and Albert were married. Once she begins dating Albert, a relationship founded primarily on mutual dry humour — he exploits her tendency to agree politely, feeding her straight-faced lies about weaving baskets in his garage — she starts to hear complaints from both ends. Marianne rants about what an overweight, clumsy slob her ex is, while Albert complains about his ex-wife's obsession with neatness and buying useless crap to store in overpriced designer boxes.
As demonstrated by Eva's perpetual annoyance with her clients and tendency to awkwardly agree with strangers in social situations — at the party, when Albert says he doesn't find anyone attractive, she says, "Yeah, it's a pretty ugly group" — she's prone to letting aggravation or difference of opinion fester without addressing them. Rather than ask a client to help her carry a massage table up his stairs, she grows increasingly resentful of his unwillingness to offer, which, as a metaphor, seeps into every aspect of her existence, much as it does the life of her best friend, Sarah (Toni Collette), who refuses to fire her housekeeper. Instead, both women let their frustrations multiple without discussion or progress, passive-aggressively asserting that people should implicitly know, and adhere to, an unspoken social order.
Eva also demonstrates this characteristic with Marianne and Albert, keeping her relationship with their respective exes a secret, which becomes problematic when she meets their daughter, Tess (Eve Hewson). Even more morally ambiguous is her tendency to probe Marianne for gritty details about Albert, which she then internalizes and takes out on Albert in a relationship capacity, focusing on his lack of concern over calories and tendency to throw things on the floor next to his bad rather than purchase a nightstand.
Beyond the observation that people tend to value the things they care about less when others criticize them — even other men and women — there's some assessment about the nature of willing ignorance during the introductory stages of a relationship. Though Eva is aware she's quietly annoyed by Albert's tendency to live (partially) like a slob and eat whatever he wants, she chooses to ignore these issues, initially finding them endearing. Looking back at her marriage, and factoring in Marianne's observations about Albert, Eva begins to realize that the big marital annoyances — the seemingly minor, metaphoric ones about how a spouse eats guacamole or doesn't throw out old toothbrushes — are actually evident from the outset.
What Enough Said points out is that ignoring problems and letting them fester is, in itself, an act of cruelty. How Holofcener presents this — using the big point of conflict about Eva keeping secrets from Albert and Marianne, but supplementing it with every peripheral relationship and sequence (even Tess denigrates Eva's pride in Ellen getting into Sarah Lawrence by commenting that some of her less intelligent friends are going there in the Fall) — is a testament to her exceptional writing. That everything is presented naturally and is consistently hilarious, capturing the awkwardness of any given social situation and the amusement of minor social impropriety in a seemingly flawless, ostensibly artificial situation is a testament to her concise, unembellished direction.
Once again, Nicole Holofcener has created the sort of adult character piece that's as entertaining as it is smart and refreshing.