"ENOUGH SAID" features James Gandolfini's last big starring movie role, and it's a very good one.
He's as good as ever, taking his belated place on movie screens as a leading man (he has one more smaller role in the hopper), but beyond that his burly Jersey-guy presence and Popeye forearms are a great tonic for the already fine work of writer-director Nicole Holofcener ("Friends with Money") - he's like a bull in her tasteful little china shop of female-friendship comedy.
He plays Albert, a middle-aged divorcee who meets female equivalent Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) at a party - they mirror each other's mid-life disappointment and bond over the fact that they find everyone at the party unattractive, each other included.
You wonder if this is Holofcener the writer commenting on her own search for new energy - her movies tend to be socioeconomically very specific to a kind of hyper-educated urban female demo, presided over by Catherine Keener, and that's the vibe at the party.
Keener has a role here, but it's a supporting part. Gandolfini and Louis-Dreyfus are the show, the latter with her active comic antennae and eager presence. She excels at the absorbing and registering of social embarrassment (nine years on "Seinfeld" couldn't hurt) and this makes her an ideal complement for Holofcener's fly-on-the-wall comedy (watch as she listens to someone disparage the school of her college-bound daughter).
"Enough Said" feels like Holofcener's most scripted work - in terms of the dialogue and also the shape of the plot. The latter turns on Eva's sudden access to a trove of information about Albert's first marriage, like "TripAdvisor," she says, for mid-life dating.
But will this information help Eva build a new relationship, or prejudice her opinion?
It's a bit pat, maybe, but plays out delightfully as embodied by the actors. And there's much more to the movie. Holofcener has an instinct for the ensemble, and there are a wealth of interesting characters in the margin. Tony Collette and Ben Falcone, for instance, as the still-sticking-with-it married foils to Eva and Albert.
Most affecting are Tracey Fairaway, as Eva's college-bound daughter, and Tavi Gevinson, in a small but complex role as the daughter's friend, whom Eva latches onto as a kind of surrogate - not because she doesn't love her daughter, but because she does and can't imagine life without her.
Albert and Eva are about to be empty nesters, losing their only children to college, about to become untethered from the human beings (spouses come and go) who've given them purpose.
We expect the scenes resolving Albert and Eva to pack a punch, and they do. More unexpected is the power of Eva's goodbye to her daughter at the airport, when the movie's other love story suddenly knocks you flat.