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Closing the distance with 'Enough Said'

'Enough Said' gives a final look at the talents of James Gandolfini
 Posted: 2:00 AM October 17, 2013

"Enough Said" is charming. A gem of a film that avoids with every well-written scene that banal and shallow place we've come to think of as the romantic comedy, movies that have over the last decade become raunchy and immature with wide swaths of arrested development offered up as staples for barely extant plots. "Enough Said" is the perfect antidote.

Written and directed by Nicole Holofcener, the film is wonderfully ordinary, insightful and sadly comedic while remaining uplifting in its generosity. It doesn't just hit one sweet spot, but offers multiple portrayals by a gifted cast, each engaging and downright delightful.

James Gandolfini is remarkable as Albert, a divorced father who has a daughter about to leave for college. He meets Eva, portrayed by the gifted Julia Louise-Dreyfus, at a party where they both insist there is no one present they are attracted to, a foreshadowing of their first date. Over dinner, they find an easy compatibility, tempered by a sharp wit — humor can be a shield as well as a source of infinite joy — and the fact that Eva also has a daughter on the cusp of leaving home for a college offers a context. They tentatively share their anxiety about being empty nesters and middle-aged.

Enough Said

93 min

Rated PG-13

Captain Phillips

134 min

Rated PG-13

Albert is large, burly and a self-confessed slob. And Eva is openly self-conscious about her looks and surprisingly frank about the size of her real boobs. Albert is a television archivist and Eva a busy masseuse. Both live in West L.A., which has an inviting, privileged glow.

And so begins an engaging exploration of their relationship, framed by their fallibility and vulnerability as they move tentatively toward a middle ground, simultaneously seeking intimacy while uncertain about the distance they will have to cross to find it. Both are insecure as each gradually reveals well-defended imperfections and assumptions.

At the center of the film is an ethical conundrum that plagues Eva almost from the outset. With each passing day, it becomes painfully clear that the resolution will be at best problematical.

While Eva lives her life — lugging her masseuse table from house to house — she worries about her relationship not only with Albert, but with her daughter, Ellen (Tracey Fairaway), battling her desire to wrap her arms around her and never let go while knowing that their time together as mother and daughter is about to change forever.

Films by Nicole Holofcener ("Friends With Money") are wonderfully detailed and revealing studies of the human condition, such as it is. She relishes moments of awkward honesty, while acknowledging the limitations of communication as her characters battle the reflexive reaction to avoid full disclosure. All of which makes for comedic and sad, and even harrowing moments of connections and misunderstandings.

What gives "Enough Said" a prevailing sense of melancholy is the knowledge that we are watching one of the final performances by Gandolfini, a sublime actor who is superb in his role as a man who is reaching out while always preparing to withdraw. It's a remarkable portrayal, and one that we know we will never see again.

'Captain Phillips'

"Captain Phillips" opens in the most ordinary way: an opening shot of a white two-story house in Vermont. Inside Captain Richard Phillips (Tom Hanks) is packing while talking to his wife Andrea (Catherine Keener), a conversation about the trip and as they drive to the airport about their sons, now in college.

Smash cut to Phillips, now in Oman, where he will take command of the Maersk Alabama, a container ship bound for Mombassa. As routine as Phillips' journey has been thus far, the ordinary will quickly morph into the extraordinary when the Alabama is hijacked by just four Somalis, jacked up on Khat (a leaf that is chewed and acts as an amphetamine), armed with AK47s, and led by a young Somali, Muse (Bakhad Abdi).

Their plan is to ransom the crew and the ship for $10 million, a plan that quickly goes south. The tension is soon ratcheted up in the extreme when the pirates take Phillips hostage, escaping and in a covered lifeboat, intending to hold the captain for ransom.

Hanks delivers a riveting, harrowing performance as a man pushed to the brink, who displays fear and courage in equal measure. As do the desperate hijackers, who are more than one-dimensional villains and soon feel hope slipping away, replaced by chaos and the ominous presence of U.S. warships.

Permeating this fine taut tale of heroism is the understanding that this film, even if it ends well, will not end well.

— Chris Honoré

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