Sep 30

“Enough Said”: Romance with a Twist

If you’ve heard anything about the new film Enough Said by writer/director Nicole Holofcener, you’re probably aware of the poignant presence of James Gandolfini. And this isn’t even his last movie project to be released posthumously; one more will be coming eventually.

For me, Holofcener’s movies—which include Walking and TalkingLovely and Amazing, and Friends with Money—tend to hit on themes pertinent to women’s development and interpersonal relationships in a way that’s relatively low-key but nevertheless interesting and meaningful. This one’s no exception.

The basic plot of Enough Said, per IMDB: “A divorced woman who decides to pursue the man she’s interested in learns he’s her new friend’s ex-husband.” And, it must be added, she doesn’t reveal her discovery to either one of them. She continues, rather, to let her new friend unknowingly serve as a sort of negative “TripAdvisor” for this dating experience and to set her new beau up for eventual humiliation.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus plays the lead Eva, a massage therapist. Gandolfini is the romantic interest Albert. Each has anticipatory grief regarding his/her only child (daughters) preparing to leave the nest for college. Catherine Keener is the new friend Marianne, who’s also a client of Eva’s.

A.O. Scott, New York Times, on the way things unfold:

To Eva, Albert is a sweet, sexy, affable slob, but his ex remembers him as a bore and a loser, clumsy in bed and incapable of taking care of himself. Partly because she is dazzled by the friendship of someone who writes incomprehensible verse, serves exotic iced tea and hangs out with Joni Mitchell, Eva absorbs Marianne’s perspective and tries, with obnoxious good intentions, to correct Albert’s faults.

States Justin ChangVariety, about some of the issues raised by this situation:

Suffice to say that Eva’s ongoing assessment of Albert, compulsively rearranging his pros and cons, leads her into a moral gray zone that forces her to grapple with some difficult if hardly new questions: Why are some couples compatible and others are not? How can one woman’s ex be another’s soul mate? Is self-improvement possible, or is happiness more a matter of acceptance and compromise?

Eva’s good friend Sarah (Toni Collette) happens to be a therapist who tries to discourage Eva’s participation in deceptive behavior. She’s also seen, in non-Hollywood-type fashion, showing appropriate therapist boundaries. When Skyping with Eva from her office, for example, she always ends conversations when a client arrives (which Eva notices first from the special light that comes on behind Sarah). In addition, Sarah resists playful attempts from Eva to get her to tell stories about her patients that would break confidentiality.

As A.O. Scott concludes, however, about Sarah’s marriage to Will (Ben Falcone), they “exist in a state of easy, affectionate tolerance that is often hard to distinguish from seething contempt.”

And Susan Wloszczyna, rogerebert.com, further notes that Sarah’s “a therapist who clearly might benefit from getting psychiatric help given her furniture-rearranging obsession and passive-aggressive relationship with her inept housekeeper.”

A.O. Scott, New York Times:

The final scenes have such impact because Ms. Holofcener has struck a buried nerve, uncovered a zone of anxiety, fear and hope that has rarely been explored with such empathy or precision. Eva, like many of us, lives in a world where the rules and roles are puzzling — where parental authority is negotiable, marriage vows are revocable and social boundaries are never clearly marked.

Even so, the primal values of right and wrong — the requirements of compassion, honesty and honorable action — still apply. It is easy to make mistakes and hard to correct them, easy to be funny and hard to be good.

Nov 03

Dr. Melfi of “The Sopranos”: One TV Therapist’s Scary Dilemma

The Sopranos (1999-2007), now available on DVD, features mob boss Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) in therapy with Dr. Melfi (Lorraine Bracco). She in turn has her own shrink, Dr. Elliot Kupferberg (Peter Bogdanovich).

One particularly scary episode is entitled “Employee of the Month.” States SopranosAutopsy.com, “Very few Sopranos episodes have had as much written about them as “Employee of the Month” has.  And understandably so. It is a sharp and powerful episode, and one of the highlights of the series.”

In this episode, Dr. Melfi is brutally raped by a guy named Jesus Rossi (who turns out to be said employee at a sub shop she goes to). He gets arrested but is soon released on a technicality. Naturally, this fuels Melfi’s distress and rage.

In a dream, Melfi sees a large menacing Rottweiler, then her actual rapist, who starts to assault her again. But the dog saves her by violently attacking Rossi.

Melfi wakes up feeling relief. Later, she describes the dream to her therapist.

The Rottweiler in her dream is deemed to represent her client Tony, whom she knows could be her protector if she so chooses. All she’d have to do is say the word—Tony would have the guy killed. As it is, though, he has no idea what happened to her.

Although she assures Elliot, her shrink, that she will not in fact take this route—which of course involves serious moral and ethical ramifications—she’s seen in an ensuing session with Tony seeming quite close to doing it. There’s a nine-second silent pause while she considers whether to admit her plight…

But then she doesn’t.