There's an understandable urge to avoid "Enough Said" because it may feel sad to watch one of the last movies starring James Gandolfini, who died unexpectedly in June.
Truth is, writer-director Nicole Holofcener's wise and observant romantic comedy is a celebration of Gandolfini's talent because Holofcener was able to see past the Tony Soprano scowl and find a tender heart.
The story starts with Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), a 40-something massage therapist in Southern California. The divorced Eva is facing the prospect of loneliness as her daughter Ellen (Tracey Fairaway) prepares to leave for college.
At a party, Eva meets two people who may start filling that void. One is Albert (Gandolfini), a sweet, quiet bear of a guy who works as an archivist at a TV museum. The other is Marianne (Catherine Keener, a regular in all of Holofcener's movies), a poet who becomes Eva's newest client.
Eva and Albert hit it off early, their acerbic senses of humor dovetailing nicely. Eva also strikes up a solid friendship with Marianne, bonding as two divorced women trading war stories about their exes.
Soon, Eva comes to realize that the ex Marianne is regularly belittling is, you guessed it, Albert. Mercifully, that little sitcom-like plot twist is the only false note in the entire movie.
Holofcener ("Please Give," "Friends With Money") accurately and sympathetically nails the attitudes of middle-age romance that desire remains even as the energy level drops, and that optimism can overcome the cynicism that comes with years of romantic disappointment.
Louis-Dreyfus is delightful, as usual, capturing Eva's need to stay sexually active while also being the grown-up in the room particularly in dealing with Ellen's clingy friend Chloe (played by former teen fashion blogger Tavi Gevinson).
But the revelation in "Enough Said" is Gandolfini, who invests in Albert much gentle humor and an ample amount of soul. One always suspected Gandolfini could express that side of his personality, away from the harsh characters David Chase created for him in "Not Fade Away" and especially in "The Sopranos." It's sad that we won't get more such performances from Gandolfini, but it's a joy to see what he does with this one.
Middle-age romance blossoms in this warm and wise comedy, a showcase for Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini.
Where • Broadway Centre Cinemas.
When • Opens Friday, Sept. 27.
Rating • PG-13 for crude and sexual content, comic violence, language and partial nudity.
Running time • 93 minutes.