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On movies: Can't say enough good about 'Enough Said'

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 4, 2013: Early on in the beautifully written, superbly acted romantic comedy "Enough Said," Albert (James Gandolfini) and Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), who have just met, are having dinner at a nice LA restaurant, well-appointed but not fancy.

They are chatting with nervous but bantering humor. They sit bathed in old-fashioned soft, romantic music. Suddenly, in the middle of the meal, the lights get darker and the music gets louder and becomes more insistent and drummy, as if programmed to fit the presumed changes in the demographics of the restaurant as the evening turns into night. The music, in a word, becomes younger.

Albert tries to get a waiter to turn the music down, to no avail, and he and Eva smile and ruefully accept their fate and resume their banter in louder voices, now more comfortable with one another. They are what they are, a couple of 40-something divorced parents looking for love.

"Enough Said" is rich with scenes like this, scenes that are fresh and revealing and at the same time strike a familiar chord. Albert and Eva may be on their first date, but they are well into middle age, single with teenage children ready to flee the nest, and the things they have in common seem to outweigh their differences -- like the fact that he is an overweight slob, and she isn't. (Eva is a door-to-door massage therapist and apparently stays in shape hauling her mattress around. Albert has a desk job and looks like James Gandolfini.)

Their relationship looks like it might be a winner, and then Eva starts hearing negative talk about Albert from Marianne, his ex-wife (Catherine Keener), who is a client. Marianne is a successful poet, more than a little full of herself, and she mercilessly mocks Albert's weight and his irritating eating habits and his guy tendency to make messes that he seems incapable of seeing, much less cleaning up.  Eva thinks she is in love with Albert, but after a few sessions with Marianne she starts having doubts, noticing potential irritants that didn't bother her before -- like his lack of bedside tables, so stuff just ends up on the floor.

Then the ex-wife says Albert was no good in bed, which has not been Eva's experience, but the thought worms its way into her carnal memory. Eventually, the conflict between what Eva feels and what she hears puts more pressure on the relationship than it can bear.

"Enough Said" is a thoroughly enjoyable romantic comedy that is breezy and bracingly realistic about the problems of finding a new partner in middle age. The movie, written and directed by Nicole Holofcener ("Friends with Money"), is sexy without being explicitly sexual, and funny without resorting to slapstick or easy farce.

It also reminds us of what a versatile actor the late James Gandolfini was. This was his last starring role, and it makes for a fine farewell. There's not a trace of Tony Soprano in Albert, except perhaps the mischievous light in his eyes. And Julia Louis-Dreyfus has clearly escaped "Seinfeld" and turns in a subtle and nuanced performance as a woman who is independent but lonely. "Enough Said" is one of the best comedies of the year.

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