REVIEW: Enough Said Starring Julia Louis-Dreyfus, James Gandolfini. Directed by Nicole Holofcener. M. ★★★★
What attracts one person to another romantically is a mystery. Physical and personality traits - from a smile, eyes and body shape to behaviour, attitudes, interests and humour - can mix together to be alluring to one person, disagreeable to another.
So what happens if Person A is attracted to Person B only to learn that Person C was once was married to Person B and increasingly found Person B unbearable to live with after the initial enchantment? Especially if Person A is wary, having already had a failed marriage.
Such a scenario underlies the romantic comedy Enough Said, which is as genial and charming as it is perceptive and poignant.
LA masseuse Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) finds herself with a complicated dilemma full of potentially disastrous consequences after separately meeting at a party Albert (James Gandolfini) and Marianne (Catherine Keener), who, like herself, are each a middle-aged divorced parent of a teenage daughter about to leave for college.
Eva starts dating Albert - and they click. Meanwhile, Marianne, a successful poet, becomes Eva's client and friend. All is fine until Eva realises that the ex-husband Marianne constantly disparages is Albert.
In effect, Marianne's remarks - like "a human TripAdvisor", Eva tells her best friend Sarah (Toni Collette), herself in an uneasy marriage - are poisoning Eva's perception of Albert. What is she to do?
Writer-director Nicole Holofcener (Please Give, Friends with Money) imbues her screenplay with honesty and wry humour, adeptly weaving into the main storyline a sub-narrative about how Eva, facing an empty nest, inadvertently makes her own daughter Ellen (Tracey Fairaway) jealous about how her mother seems to be replacing her with Ellen's needy best friend Chloe (Tavi Gavinson).
Plus there are asides on being a masseuse and dealing with clients with bad breath, non-stop talking or thoughtlessness as well as Albert's job as a TV librarian, saving old TV shows for public viewing.
But the film's success is anchored in the performances of Louis-Dreyfus and Gandolfini.
Louis-Dreyfus is a talented, expressively funny comedienne as she's shown on TV shows Seinfeld, The New Adventures of Old Christine and Veep, particularly in her ability to make amusing, if sometimes painfully or awkwardly so, feelings of vulnerability and anxiety.
Gandolfini's bearded Albert is a burly, gentle, sweet teddy bear of a man - an endearing performance to make you forget his TV mobster Tony Soprano and made even more affecting by Gandolfini having suddenly died in June this year aged 51. Enough Said is his last starring performance and penultimate role (he appears in the crime drama Animal Rescue due out next year).
With its commendable ensemble cast and a smart, droll and touching screenplay, Enough Said is a mature, intelligent, beguiling film, a contender for best rom-com of the year.
Delivery Man Starring Vince Vaughn. Directed by Ken Scott. M. ★★★
In the sweet, if sentimental, feelgood comedy Delivery Man, Vince Vaughn's usual slacker-manchild screen persona is put into a situation in which he needs to be caring, loving and responsible - in other words, to grow up.
Vaughn plays David Wozniak, a delivery truck driver for his family's New York City butchery business. David has a history of making bad decisions, is deep in debt but is also an amiable guy with good intentions and, significantly, compassion.
His life gets complicated when he learns that, as a result of donating sperm 20 years earlier to a fertility clinic for money, he's now the biological father of 533 children, 142 of whom are seeking his identity in a class-action lawsuit.
At the same time he learns his cop girlfriend is pregnant but is unsure if she wants him in her life.
As David sets out to prove he can be a loving, reliable father and be a guardian angel towards his newly-discovered adult children, he wrestles with whether to remain anonymous and what to do about his $80,000 debt to threatening loan sharks.
Writer-director Ken Scott's remake of his Canadian film Starbuck has several awkward, glib or contrived aspects, like the intrusive mobsters, invisible mothers and one annoyingly needy adult child who starts living with David.
But its smorgasbord screenplay mixes an intriguing premise, mild humour (mainly Chris Pratt as David's best friend, lawyer and single father of four kids) and heart-warming moments, with Vaughn's restrained, low-key performance nicely linking them together.
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