James Gandolfini’s sweet nature shines in his next-to-last role, writes
AMES Gandolfini was such a good actor that as you watch new movie Enough Said – and fall in love with his funny and endearing character, Albert – you can actually forget for long chunks of screen time that the real man is gone.
Longtime fans of the actor may approach the film with a sense of dread. Will this romantic comedy be hard to watch, knowing that he’ll never get to see the reaction to his own work in his last leading role? (Initially, yes.) Will I be able to enjoy the movie despite that? (Definitely, yes.) Will I watch it through tear-filled eyes? (At times, perhaps.)
Enough Said is a delightful little movie about two middle-aged divorced people – Eva and Albert – who meet at a party and hit it off. Both are facing empty nests, each with a daughter who is about to start college far away from home. Both enjoy each other’s humour and company.
And both, it turns out, have something else in common: Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is a masseuse and one of her clients is Marianne (Catherine Keener), a self-involved poet who happens to be Albert’s ex-wife.
Eva only realises this after she’s been seeing Albert long enough to really like him. She decides to tell her best friend (Toni Collette) but not tell Albert, while she listens to Marianne complain about Albert and goads her into sharing details about why their marriage ended.
The more Eva listens to Marianne’s grievances about her ‘‘loser’’ ex – among other things, she says he was fat, unambitious and clumsy in bed – the more Eva starts to question herself and to look at Albert in a different light, even as the audience comes to view Marianne as the true loser.
Gandolfini is terrific as Albert, who’s also a funny guy, in an understated way.
Anyone who watched him on The Sopranos knows Gandolfini’s Tony Soprano could be hilarious. But Tony mostly wasn’t aware that he was being funny. Albert is.
What’s really touching is Albert’s gentleness and tenderness, and when the truth ultimately comes out about what Eva knows, Gandolfini does a wonderful job of showing us Albert’s wounded heart and pride.
Gandolfini loses himself in Albert. The only time I thought of the man behind the role was when the characters talked about Albert being overweight and loving food too much.
It’s hard not to think of some of the stories people wrote about Gandolfini’s final meals in Rome before he suffered a fatal heart attack there June 19 – something that leads to distracting thoughts of what might have been.
Gandolfini’s final film, the crime drama Animal Rescue, in which he plays a New York City bar owner, is due out next year. Enough Said – his next-to-last movie – was filmed in Los Angeles in August and September 2012. When the film ends, a black title card says simply, ‘‘For Jim’’.
It’s a lovely tribute, fitting for a great but humble man.
Enough Said opens today