Back in 1956, Director Alfred Hitchcock worked with two of America’s biggest movie stars – James Stewart and Doris Day in a film called The Man Who Knew Too Much. It was a Hitchcockian thriller about a family vacationing in Morocco who accidentally stumble on to an assassination plot, and their very lives become imperiled because the bad guys will do anything to make sure their plans are not impeded by Ben and Josephine McKenna (Stewart & Day).
The film I saw today is called Enough Said. Directed by Nicole Holocener, this film could have or might have had a different title – The Woman Who Knew Too Much.
This woman is called Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), and she’s a So-Cal Massage Therapist – you know – have table will travel. She’s in her late 40’s, is divorced, and is about to have to deal with separation anxiety as her daughter is approaching a departure date for sleep away college all the way across the country in New York – Sarah Lawrence College.
She’s brought to a party by her best friend Sarah (Toni Collette now starring in the CBS Series Hostages) and at this party she meets two people who will become important to her. The first is Albert played by James Gandolfini.
He’s an early 50’s kind of guy, divorced, and also has a daughter about to leave for college.
The second person of note at the party is Marianne (played by Catherine Keener) – a beautiful poetess, earth-mother type, a divorced woman with a daughter leaving for college too. Marianne is also a woman who needs a massage and needs a friend.
Though all of this happens at the same party, Eva doesn’t meet the two others at the same time. She’s introduced to Albert by Sarah and her jerky husband Will who blurts out that Eva has just told them there isn’t a single guy at the party that she is attracted to.
Albert takes it in stride, and returns the remark in kind. But the eyes tell their own tale despite what the characters may say.
Later Marianne and Eva meet. Eva is kind of star-struck, or in awe of Marianne, and especially so after Marianne contacts her to make an appointment for a massage.
Okay, you can see where this is going. Eva begins dating Albert, and Eva also begins (post massage) exchanging talks about men with Marianne who is constantly griping (with Eva gently probing) about her failed marriage. Eva and Marianne may be masseuse and client, but they also become friends.
So Eva learns about the negatives about Marianne’s ex, and at the same time her relationship with Albert deepens. Without me connecting any more dots for you – do you get it? The Woman Who Knew Too Much.
This is a small film, with a small demographic target audience. People who will watch a film about people edging into their middle years. Okay it is funny, and you’re going to laugh throughout the film. Only until things go south. I mean they have to as this is a movie not a documentary.
But the thing of it is – that this film is both funny, and touching, and so very real in the sense that what Albert and Eva feel about their children, their ex’s, their pasts, their futures, as well as their ongoing fears of being wrong in the present are not drawn for us as just a wacky romantic comedy.
No, what we get is a something you have either experienced for yourself, or you’ve had to deal with it second-hand via someone you know.
At the beginning, it is inescapable that we see Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Elaine Benes, her signature role from the Seinfeld days. We also see Gandolfini as Tony Soprano. But those character alter-egos begin at the periphery and soon enough vanish completely.
Eva is Eva, and Albert is Albert. Our leads are not doing themselves as we knew them in their earlier TV salad days. No, these are fresh, new characters with all of the same vulnerabilities that we regular folks have, which means we can easily identify with them
Julia is marvelous as she’s caught between the two polarities. She doesn’t always enjoy her job, and she doesn’t always say the right things. But she’s just lovable.
Gandolfini also looks good as a large (and remarkably cuddly) brown bear in the form of a human. He’s not menacing at all. He calls himself a slob, and when he invites Eva to his home, he greets her at the door still in his pajamas.
Eva: I’m sorry. Did I get the day wrong
Albert: No, why?
Eva: Because you are still wearing your pajamas.
Albert: It’s Sunday and I like to feel comfortable.
The film doesn’t need a road map or a lot of exposition for us to get what’s happening. As I said above, you can always see it in the eyes.
This isn’t a film with swelling violins, or sunsets, or even musical interludes where lovers walk on a moon lighted beach. Rather it is far better than those standard romance by the numbers scenes.
We ache, and we hurt for them when things go wrong, and we suffer with their anxieties, but mostly we enjoy being with these people. Make that very much enjoy their company. Four point two five is my rating, and I’m heartily recommending this small gem that is simply a delightful film.