There's an amusing wistfulness to Nicole Holofcener's latest exploration of woman and love, "Enough Said." And since it co-stars the late- James Gandolfini, you can throw in a touch of melancholy, a sort of dark cloud that hangs over an otherwise light and hopeful L.A. romance among those pushing 50. He gives a poignancy to one of his last screen appearances that lives on past his death.
Julia Louis-Dreyfus stars as Eva, a long-divorced single-mom and massage therapist. Her job is a bore, her daughter ( Tracey Fairaway) is about to move off to college and she's resigned to the shrinking dating scene she faces.
Then, Eva joins her friends ( Toni Collette, Ben Falcone) for a party. That's where she meets Marianne ( Catherine Keener). She could be a new customer and maybe even a new friend.
And then Eva meets the portly, frumpy Albert (Gandolfini), who clicks with her because they both find "no one at this party I'm attracted to." They're both down on rude "younger people."
He finds her random, inappropriate wisecracks funny, and he's able to make her laugh, too.
They date, even though she's hesitant. She tries not to judge the way he loads his low-fat yogurt down with M&Ms or look askance at his Sunday sweatpants-for-brunch routine.
That becomes tricky when Eva realizes that the ex-husband her new client / pal Marianne is constantly griping about is named Albert, too. Her "Fat Albert" must be Marianne's Fat Albert.
That's a slim coincidence to build a movie on, but Dreyfus makes the most of it -- letting us see the wheels turn as Eva starts looking for the same faults that her friend saw in Albert, and then tries to figure out how to address this "problem" of revealing to one that she knows the other. Dreyfus wears Eva's neediness on her sleeve, reaching for her sounding board (Collette's character is a shrink), clinging to a teenager who actually listens to her, her daughter's best friend ( Tavi Gevinson).
What's fun here, to a point, is the collision of sensibilities. Dreyfus has made this sort of lovelorn joker her specialty, with a "Seinfeld"-polished bag of expressions, laughs and acting moves. Holofcener even cast one of Dreyfus's "Seinfeld" boyfriends ( Toby Huss) to play her ex-husband here.
Work Dreyfus's shtick into Holofcener's cycle of screen journeys through life, which includes such movies as "Lovely & Amazing," "Friends with Money" and "Please Give," co-starring her muse, Keener -- films that capture her heroines' shifting priorities as they age and the endless search for love and happiness. What comes out is wistful, a shallow character trying not to be, upset when others see past her facade and can judge her the same way she judges them.
Gandolfini is charming and winning, but the butt of too many weight / calorie counting jokes to let us forget that he died -- overweight and entirely too young -- earlier this year.
That knowledge doesn't hurt "Enough Said." It actually deepens an otherwise lightweight romance. But unlike "Friends With Money," where Holofcener and Keener teamed with Jennifer Aniston, the sitcom star here doesn't transform into a new character. Apparently at Holofcener's urging, Dreyfus just tends to overwhelm the movie with her regular (if charming) bag of tricks, as if that's enough. And it isn't.
Cast: Julia-Louis Dreyfus, James Gandolfini, Toni Collette, Catherine Keener
Written and directing by Nicole Holofcener. A Fox Searchlight release
Running time: 1:35
MPAA rating: PG-13 for crude and sexual content, comic violence, language and partial nudity
Photo/Video credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures