One reason to see Nicole Holofcener's "Enough Said" is to catch another glimpse of James Gandolfini, who died in June with two films yet to be released. Gandolfini was best known as Mafia boss Tony Soprano in HBO's "The Sopranos" and became slightly typecast, showing up recently as a hit man in "Killing Them Softly" and a gruff Leon Panetta in "Zero Dark Thirty." In "Enough Said," Gandolfini plays a guy, just a regular guy, named Albert.
He's thoroughly convincing, unexpectedly sweet and vulnerable, though he's not the film's star. That's Julia Louis-Dreyfus in a terrific performance that -- were Gandolfini still with us -- would probably be getting more attention. Together, they transform "Enough Said" from a small-scale dramedy into something deeper, more true to life and sometimes discomfiting.
Louis-Dreyfus plays Eva, an independent masseuse, a divorced mother to college-bound Ellen (Tracey Fairaway) and resolutely single. At a party, she meets a disgruntled poet, Marianne (Catherine Keener), who becomes a customer. She also meets Albert, who unexpectedly becomes a boyfriend. Things go swimmingly until Eva realizes that the ex-spouses these two complain about so bitterly are each other. Eva considers coming clean, but what if Marianne is right about Albert's hidden flaws? Hedging her bets, Eva keeps listening.
On the one hand, this is sitcom territory, familiar to anyone who's seen "Friends" or even "Three's Company." But writer-director Holofcener ("Friends With Money") knows that sitcoms work because they allow us to laugh at our own moral failings, and she probes deep into this seemingly frothy material. The movie's charm comes from watching Eva and Albert banter and canoodle their way into a beautiful romance -- you can see the shy surprise on their middle-age faces -- but its impact comes from Louis-Dreyfus' brave, insightful performance as a flawed, fearful and sometimes very unattractive woman.
Added color comes from subplots involving a rockily married couple (Toni Collette and Ben Falcone) and a latchkey teenager (Tavi Gevinson) who finds a surrogate mom in Eva. Some of it feels pat, though the movie's two leads are as real as it gets.
PLOT A single woman discovers she is dating a friend's ex- husband.
RATING PG-13 (language, sexual themes)
CAST Julia Louis-Dreyfus, James Gandolfini, Catherine Keener
BOTTOM LINE A small-scale movie made much bigger by achingly good performances from Louis-Dreyfus and Gandolfini in one of his final roles.