Enough Said Shows the Sobering Side of Middle Age
Jan 27, 2023
Reaching middle age in one’s life can be frightening. It is also something that Hollywood prefers to overly dramatize. In many instances, a midlife crisis consists of extreme mundanity and internal contemplation about life as a whole, which is something not always compatible with traditional movie entertainment. In the Nicole Holofcener film Enough Said, the process of grappling with the middle years of life matches the sobering way that it is in real life. The film is approachable in its treatment of a midlife crisis through endearing humor and tenderness, but the sobering depiction of what these years of living amounts to will resonate with viewers of all adult ages.
Enough Said follows Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) as a divorced mother who engages in a romantic relationship with a divorced father, Albert (James Gandolfini). Problems arise when Eva learns that a newfound friend she recently bonded with, Marianne (Catherine Keener), just happens to be Albert’s ex-wife. Marianne, who doesn’t know about her ex’s new relationship, is all too happy to tell Eva all about Albert’s many faults. A dramedy of this kind could solely rely on the ebb and flow of the romance between Eva and Albert, but Holofcener, who would go on to be an Academy Award nominated screenwriter for Can You Ever Forgive Me?, spices up the story with the element of Eva’s concealed secret. This subplot transpires towards a familiar story beat, a common stand-off seen in many instances of a revelation of a liar, but along the way, it creates more intrigue with Eva’s psyche, and how she deals with the crossroads of middle age.
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At the very least, Enough Said is worthy of a viewing just to see two acting giants and legends of television in Louis-Dreyfus and the late Gandolfini banter with each other. Anyone who loved their respective series ought to watch them elevate a simple-premised film into something with a little more ethos. Of course, it is not Elaine Benes and Tony Soprano on screen together. However, a proper reading of the film interpreting their characters in Enough Said as comments on their small screen persona exists. The two seemingly play versions of Elaine and Tony that are past their prime, and are forced to overcome their own cynical views of the world that were present in Seinfeld and The Sopranos. Especially in the case of Gandolfini’s casting, it does not manifest as a piece of stunt casting to place the gruff and tough-guy image of him within the framework of a rom-com. He is totally natural as an everyday man who is in a state of ambivalence in his middle years.
The Honesty and Openness of Eva and Albert in Their Middle Years
Lacking direction and the mystery of the future is at the core of Enough Said. Eva and Albert are soon-to-be empty nesters, as both of their respective kids are heading off to college. This is naturally an expected time to begin an introspective on one’s life. When a parent spends 18 years dedicating their life to raising a child, they may lose in touch with themselves as human beings. Holofcener’s film explores the murkiness of middle-age bluntly by depicting characters who express frustration about the world and younger generations. On their first date, Albert, who works as a museum curator of classic television, goes on a mild rant about the low-brow quality of contemporary TV programming, specifically citing the trashiness of reality shows. He even decries against consumer culture when reference his ex-wife’s and daughter’s frequent trips to The Container Store. During dinner, Eva is frustrated when a busboy denies her request for the music playing over the restaurant to be turned down. This leads to Albert proclaiming, “I find that I don’t like younger people.” When spending time together, Eva and Albert draw out the honesty in each other in their second-guessing about matters of the world. Bluntness is refreshing for the two characters, but it ultimately casts them as curmudgeons. It’s not as if they are bad people, but it signals a misguided attempt in dealing with their own midlife crises.
On the flip side, entering their 50s shows some promise for Eva and Albert. While their honesty can make them curmudgeonly on one hand, it simultaneously gives their relationship a breath of fresh air, and one that gives hope for their romance in the long term. They express or comment on mild observations that are not groundbreaking in hindsight, but demonstrate a relieving quality of being able to be open in a relationship. There is a transparency between the two about visual appearance and sex. Eva asks Albert about his thoughts on “fake” breasts, and in an endearingly awkward sequence, during a breakfast together at his home, she informs him that his penis is inadvertently showing through his pajama pants fly. Evan eventually grows to accept the upsides of aging, citing that she finds the companionship of midlife with Albert to be comforting and sexually gratifying. Additionally, both of them look forward to the process of cultivating a new hobby in lieu of everyday parenting. Their relationship opened each other’s eyes to the comforting nature of growing old and the normalcy of having fear for this time period.
What a Midlife Crisis Entails for the Future in ‘Enough Said’
Since their romantic fling was established upon frankness, duplicity is what causes the greatest riff in their relationship. Eva befriended Marianne just prior to meeting Albert, who unknowingly was the ex-husband of Marianne. Through all of their occasions of spending time together for business or socially, Eva never discloses that she is seeing Albert. More troubling for their relationship is that whenever Marianne vents about the uber- specific behavioral details of Albert that bothered her, Eva would let those complaints seep into her own perception of him. Eva’s cynicism rears its ugly head whenever they discuss why Marianne’s marriage ended so poorly. Whenever Eva and Albert spend time together, Marianne’s pet peeves begin to bother Eva, such as the latter’s habit of separating the onions from a salsa or guacamole dip. If Albert draws out the benefits of middle age, then Marianne highlights the drawbacks. The dark side of the midlife crisis comes in the form of bitterness and viewing life and the people around you through pettiness.
In the end, Enough Said reaches a naturalistic conclusion, one that is evoked in the film’s title. Eva and Albert realize that entering their middle years is just another facet of life. There is no end-all final destination. Albert and Marianne’s revelation of Eva’s connection between the two divorcees does not lead to any melodramatic showdown, but rather a state of contemplation among all parties as to how to manage this situation. Holofcener restrains from anything overly dramatized throughout the film and that continues through the final shots. There are no defined answers as to how the relationship between Eva and Albert will turn out, but that is exactly what life is like, especially in sobering middle age.
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