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An intimate look at complications of life, love

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James Gandolfini and Julia Louis-Dreyfus play single parents who fall in love.

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James Gandolfini and Julia Louis-Dreyfus play single parents who fall in love.

Writer-director Nicole Holofcener is her own person, and her work, once seen, reminds you of no one else's. Actors James Gandolfini and Julia Louis-Dreyfus are the boldface names that will persuade moviegoers to see her latest film, Enough Said, but it is Holofcener's world they will be entering -- and celebrating.

In her fifth feature, Holofcener (Please Give, Friends With Money) continues to make funny, melancholy, dead-on honest films about fallible people attempting not to make a complete mess of their lives. Her gift is for portraying life as it is lived, with a sensitivity to the nuances of insecurity that beset us as we struggle to avoid disappointing the people who mean the most to us.

Her films are so intimate, they allow actors to blossom, and both Louis-Dreyfus and Gandolfini reveal sides of themselves not often seen as they play two people who are drawn to each other but not quite sure how to handle what turn out to be complicated ramifications of the attraction.

What Enough Said mostly explores is how we sabotage ourselves and each other by not understanding, as the title indicates, how to avoid saying too much or too little but just enough.

This is especially true of Louis-Dreyfus's Eva. A busy masseuse, Eva is introduced in an entertaining montage of snapshots as she lugs her massage table around L.A., cheerfully putting up with the thoughtless foibles of clients.

In her personal life, Eva is a divorced single parent who is nervously preparing for a major change: Her only child, daughter Ellen (Tracey Fairaway), is about to head across the country to college, leaving her alone.

Eva's best friend is Sarah (the versatile Toni Collette), a psychotherapist who could use some help with her own marriage to Will (Bridesmaids' Ben Falcone). The couple drag Eva to a party where she meets two people who take over her life as well as the film.

The first is Marianne (Catherine Keener), a successful poet of the type who's known Joni Mitchell for years. She turns out to be in need of both massages and friendship. Eva can't believe that someone like this would want to hang out with her, and is soon hanging on the poet's every word.

That party is also where Eva meets Albert (Gandolfini), a divorced single dad. As people of a certain age, Eva and Albert are both wary of new relationships, but they bond over empty-nest syndrome -- his sharp-tongued daughter Tess (Eve Hewson, Bono's daughter) is also leaving for college back east -- and soon enough they are happily dating. With a catch.

The poet can't help sharing her continued distaste for her unapologetic slob of an ex-husband who, Eva slowly comes to realize, is none other than her new love, Albert. How these confidences affect Eva and what she says -- and doesn't say -- about them is this film's provocative central dynamic.

One of the director's gifts is for normalizing stars and making them credible as ordinary people. Louis-Dreyfus beautifully handles the role of a woman prone to saying too much or too little, and Gandolfini, in his final starring role (he died in June at age 51), matches her stride for stride. It is a performance whose combination of sensitivity and strength underlines exactly why he will be so missed.

Audiences will connect to expertly rendered dilemmas and situations that could not be more universal.

-- Los Angeles Times

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 27, 2013 D6

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Updated on Friday, September 27, 2013 at 8:59 AM CDT: adds video

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