Nicole Holofcener's organic, low-key approach to characterization has made her one of the few writer-directors whose primary concern really seems to be the people populating her stories rather than any contrived conflict between them. In addition to writing and directing a series of personal films (Walking and Talking, Please Give) featuring characters who have grown up as she has, she's also done work on Parks and Recreation and the lamentably cancelled Enlightened.
If that weren't enough, remember that if not for Holofcener, we might not know who Catherine Keener was.
Her newest movie, Enough Said, features Keener but stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Eva, a massage therapist and single mom whose daughter is about to leave for college. Holofcener follows Eva from time with her daughter (Tracey Fairaway) in her living room to hangouts with her testy pal Sarah (Toni Collette) to a party where she meets Marianne (Keener), with whom she strikes up a friendship. She also meets Albert (James Gandolfini) at the party. When they tell each other that they don't find anyone at the party attractive, sparks fly.
Well, sort of. One of the pleasures of Enough Said is the gradual way that Eva talks herself into her attraction to Albert; it's believable and even romantic. Dreyfus is so adorable, Gandolfini is so charming, and Holofcener is so good at spending casual time with her characters that Enough Said doesn't really need to develop a plot. As one gradually (inevitably) comes into view, Eva's decisions are selfish but understandable. She intrudes on her daughter Ellen's life by befriending Ellen's bestie Chloe (played by an excellent Tavi Gavinson, the phenom fashion blogger), and she gets dirt on Albert with unsavory methods that she chooses not to confess.
Eva's problems with Albert don't seem to take over her life. Even when she's hiding behind shrubbery, Eva is basically a mature woman who's been through relationships and has more important things to do than swoon over Albert because he buys her frozen yogurt. She likes him, sometimes she's not sure how much, probably a lot. But she's also trying to figure out what her daughter thinks of her before she leaves home, she needs to earn a living, and she must make it clear to her ex that it's a bad idea to order more bread when you're not sure you even want it.
It's tempting to start quoting dialogue, but in a Holofcener movie, giving away the conversation is like shouting out plot spoilers in a Bourne film. At first, Holofcener's world is so easy and pleasant to spend time in that Enough Said feels like a well-executed trifle, but in fact it's a unique and classically accomplished comedy from a writer-director who has emerged as a heavyweight of the light movie.
This article appeared in print with the headline "Fast men."