Frequent filmgoers are all abuzz about the newest Julia Louis-Dreyfus film, Enough Said, which premiered on September 18th of this year. The film, which was one of James Gandolfini’s last films, has received largely positive reviews, and follows the love story of two unlikely divorcees who must learn to navigate new relationships, Empty Nest Syndrome, and sex and dating during middle age.
The film is written and directed by Nicole Holofcener, and centers around Eva (Louis-Dreyfus), who simultaneously befriends a woman and begins dating a man named Albert (Gandolfini), only to find out that her new acquaintances were once married. Navigating the slippery slope of curiosity and relationship-PTSD, Eva is conflicted about revealing her discovery and risking the end of both relationships.
Though we are approaching the time of year when campy romantic comedies are assailing audiences everywhere, I can’t help but feel as though Enough Said is a radically different film. Yes, it follows the age-old plot arc of two people finding each other, falling in love, fucking it up, and then (SPOILER ALERT) getting back together, but while I often fail to understand the reasons why protagonists in these types of movies seem to flail in communication with one another, the questionable motivations of Eva’s character are familiar and understandable to me. A woman deeply traumatized by her divorce, she sees the opportunity to gather information about her new love from his ex wife that could save her from making potentially disastrous choices. Eva justifies her decision to her best friend (played by the ever-gorgeous Toni Collette), by appealing to the rational side of all of those who have ever fallen in love: if you had the opportunity to know if something would work out or not without having to take the necessary risks of heartbreak, would you?
Aside from themes of heartbreak-avoidance and gun shy, post-divorce dating, the movie also touches upon body shame, navigating sex at various ages, and the ambivalent liminal space between creating a nuclear family and letting that family go. Though the film had unfortunate moments of intense fat-phobia, as well as an unnecessary scene in which Eva is insulted with a homophobic slur, the film deals with aging and sexual history with decided grace, poise, and intuition. The characters in the film are warm, intuitive, and flighty—just like people in romantic partnerships at any age. The longer Eva spends with Mary Ann, Albert’s ex wife, the more her perception of her relationship with him begins to sour. She begins finding the same idiosyncratic actions irritating. Tokens of appreciation that were once well-received are harshly criticized, and the audience is allowed to see, very clearly, Eva’s walls come up as she battles to separate her feelings for Albert from Mary Ann’s feelings for Albert, as well as navigate her divorce, and the impending departure of her daughter for college.
In terms of navigating the societal constrictions of body image and ability that come with age, the film would benefit from deeper exploration. Though Eva is critical of Albert’s self-described slovenliness at first, she finds herself increasingly attracted to his dynamic personality and self-deprecating humor. The theme of the conventionally unattractive man paired with the slim, beautiful woman is an all-too-common theme in Hollywood, and gives me pause; it begs the question—what sorts of discourse might we create as a collective audience if the roles were reversed? When I think back on film history, I see very few films that explore the idea of role-reversal in that capacity; the majority of films positively insist that women embody ability, slenderness, and particular conventions of beauty, even as they age, while men given a hall pass. Perhaps Harold and Maude remains one of the few films that sexualizes a societally unattractive woman, and even then, her eccentricity has to work overtime to make her the exception.
What I found extremely real about the film was the emphasis on change, movement, and shifting within relationships and family dynamics. Unlike many other romantic comedies, which focus on the unreasonably eternal, unchanging love between people, Enough Said recognizes that love and sex evolve, mature, and fade as the humanly vessels which carry them. Perhaps what is erroneously portrayed in the majority of films about human relationships is that love is certain, and that signifies permanence. Contrarily, love is certain, and so is impermanence, and there ought to be more movies, works of art, and pop cultural representations that celebrate that evolution as much as they do the origin.