Going steady: Enough Said movie review
Gandolfini shines in posthumous release
Published: Thursday, October 3, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 3, 2013 19:10
Film: Enough Said
Studio: Fox Searchlight
Release Date: Sept. 18
For those of us unlucky to miss living through the Hollywood Golden Age, it is banal and even cynical to note how a major distinction between today’s cinema, and the cinema of that period, is the role that stars occupy in the lives of the audience.
There is star-power today but it exists in a different form. No longer do actors work in the same studio system (1930s-50s) when audiences became so familiar with the character roles of certain actors that each performance was a variation of the same character. With each new film, it was interesting to see what adjustments the actor made to an evolving repertory role.
You could get Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon and then in Casablanca and you would be getting the same character in a different role. There are actors today whose repertoire falls under that same sort of category, but not to the effect of such power. And as trite as it is to say, there are no more ‘Bogarts’ stumbling along Hollywood’s lost corridors.
With the emergence of stars like Marlon Brando and Montgomery Clift following the days of Bogart and Jimmy Stewart, however, the perception of acting changed. It became a different way of embodying a role – they were products of method acting and were less concerned with inflating their own personality; it was about making the character’s personality their own.
As more stars emerged out of the method training, a platitude about actors was amplified that they are people without any established identity. They need characters to be someone – themselves.
The ones who could do it best were the most complex – the most able to capture the essence of all the different characters in their own minds.
As David Denby has said, “Stars hold your attention just by being what they are. In their very existence on-camera, they express a vivid or extreme human possibility, a projection of personal power onto the world.”
Stars of that sort do still exist. They are scattered frivolously throughout the industrial landscape of the international film community (which now belongs to the global marketplace). And what can induce despair in the cinephile who believes in the power that actors can have on the culture is when talent of the highest caliber never realizes its fullest range.
James Gandolfini had that power – that presence of unbounded human vulnerability that could live within the most monstrous of male sadists.
His famed role of Tony Soprano was a monster; he was a murderer and a husband, a mob boss and a father, a philanderer and a fisherman, a brutalist in psychiatry working through the agita of existential anxiety; he was all these things at once, and he conveyed this character with a sense of totality – a full-fledged image brought to life through a series of expressed psychological patterns.
Gandolfini absorbed the role so acutely it was evident he could not avoid the inevitability of being typecasted. Not since Seinfeld had an actor’s identity been so connected with the role they became famous for.
After his death in June, swarms of recollections surfaced the Internet, and Anthony Lane of The New Yorker observed that even with his enormous capabilities, and with Not Fade Away being overlooked, Gandolfini could only fully embody a certain type of role. The persona of Tony Soprano reflected not only an embedded cultural icon, but also an insight into the limitations of his acting versatility.
Part of the excitement that has surrounded the release of Enough Said, the new film by Nicole Holofcener (Please Give), has been to see one of Gandolfini’s last film performances. What audiences who are primarily familiar with Gandolfini through his role on The Sopranos will notice is that Lane’s assessment was far from true.
And it is his performance that provides the film its depth and ethos – what makes it a discerning look at the intricacies of human relationships; the alteration his role reflects from past performances changes the relationship we may have thought we had with him.
Enough Saidis rhapsodic but easygoing – it is a formulaic rom-com that breaks free of certain conventions to become a charming examination of the minutiae of middle-age life.
Albert (James Gandolfini, Not Fade Away) and Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep) meet at a cocktail party one evening where they each admit that neither of them is attracted to the other. Through an insipid sequence of events, they begin dating.
Each is a divorced parent with a teenage daughter getting ready to leave home for college; they meet at similar stages of life and share a playful sense of humor with clairvoyant ease to mask their shared anxieties of aging, self-assurance, self-sufficiency, intimacy and the prospect of really living alone.
Eva is a trendy masseuse with high energy; she moves along day to day with an aura of spontaneity that softens the intensity of her emotional need. At the same party she meets Albert, she meets Marianne (Catherine Keener, A Late Quartet), a granola-type vegan poet whom later she strikes up a friendship with after Marianne first becomes a client.
They talk and develop a bond. Marianne confides in Eva over trivial annoyances and her ex-husband – a fat slob who was nothing but a source of irritation. Later, Eva realizes that slob was Albert.