It’s not every day you find a romantic comedy that’s actually relatable. No offence to such films as Pretty Woman or You’ve Got Mail – those flicks are great and do exactly what they’re supposed to, which is provide 90-120 minutes of self-escape and superficial giggles.
But Enough Said is different – you walk away with the impression that writer and director Nicole Holofcener actually gets what it’s like to be a 40-something woman looking to start over. And all the baggage that comes with it.
This quirky comedy, released in Toronto theatres on September 27, tells the story of Eva, a divorced massage therapist facing an empty nest as her daughter prepares to leave for college. Played by comedic veteran Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Seinfeld, Veep), Eva is dreading the impending loneliness and decides it might be time to seek out a stable romantic relationship.
Enter Albert (James Gandolfini, The Sopranos). Not the type of man Eva would normally be attracted to, she soon starts to fall in love with him despite herself. Until, that is, she finds out about his surprising connection to her newest (and coolest) client and friend, Marianne (Catherine Keener, The 40 Year-Old Virgin). Trying to keep both relationships afloat, Eva makes a series of wrong moves, sounding off to best friend Sarah (Toni Collette, About a Boy) all the while.
What’s wonderful about this film is just how real it feels. It’s a tale of love and friendship and second chances…but not remotely contrived. It also examines how important “the little things” are in a relationship – any relationship – and how other people’s experiences can unfairly affect our perceptions.
Nicole Holofcener, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Toni Collette and Catherine Keener were in town during the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this month and chatted with journalists about the film.
“I just was thinking about how we find out about people’s flaws and quirks and little things late…and what would happen if we tried to hedge our bets and find out now what we will learn later,” says Holofcener. “It was an idea in my head about my ex-husband and him having a new girlfriend…does she want to call me and find out now? But her perspective and experience would be only hers, and that would destroy any relationship.”
While the powerhouse team of Louis-Dreyfus, Collette and Keener is a huge part of what makes the film work, the process of finding the right combination of leading ladies took a fair bit of effort.
“I think it’s much harder to get a movie made with middle-aged women as stars,” reflect Holofcener. “The casting was not easy – there were a lot of lists and ‘if it’s this woman, well it’s got to be that guy’. Marketing is really important, especially when she’s not getting naked. I think the attitude is that once a woman turns 40, the general audience thinks she’s gross. I’m very lucky that I’ve gotten my movies made.”
The director hadn’t met Louis-Dreyfus until casting began, and the chemistry was instantaneous. “I jumped at the chance to meet her because I was a big fan of hers,” Holofcener recalls. “We sat down to lunch and got along – we had a similar sense of humor. She was really emotional and warm and I could see that she wasn’t the character she plays…’oh yeah, you aren’t Elaine Benes, you’re a woman my age!’ I felt like she could do it and we’d have a lot of fun.”
For her part, the role of Eva was extremely appealing to Louis-Dreyfus. “She’s hijacked emotionally by where she is in her life and it’s almost as if she can’t control herself,” she explains. “I love the idea of somebody screwing up this badly…someone who is fundamentally a very good person, but who is fueled by a kind of fear.”
A fear that Louis-Dreyfus herself has firsthand knowledge of. “When we made this film, I had just gone through the landmark moment in life of taking our oldest son to college. And it’s pretty excruciating! That was something that also drew me to the script – talking about and dealing with that part of experience.”
The mutual respect between the four women is evident to hear them speak of the filming experience.
“Nicole writes parts that ring so true to me in terms of women,” says Keener.
Adds Collette: “She’s so good at capturing these really natural, idiosyncratic moments where people are trying to relate to each other and it’s so accurate and authentic…and just feels real. I would have played a plant in this movie! I just wanted to work with Nicole.”
And then there’s James Gandolfini’s Albert. The film is necessarily bittersweet given the talented actor’s untimely passing this summer. He never saw the film – but we as an audience get to see a different side of him, as a sweet and vulnerable man just looking to get the girl. A role that he himself wasn’t all that comfortable with.
“I think James was a little reticent at first because he didn’t want to do comedy,” says Louis-Dreyfus. “He definitely felt that he was kind of undeserving for this part, which is, of course, utterly ridiculous. He would make jokes to Nicole, saying ‘Feel free to call Clooney’…but that made him ever more lovable. I loved working with him.”
“Jim took his part very seriously,” says Holofcener. “He wasn’t that confident with his comedy chops – we would say ‘Just do it your way’. His comedy was wonderful – I’m blessed with Jim’s performance.”
Enough Said is now in theatres.