James I Hardly Knew You

Not ever crossing paths with the seminal US television series ‘The Sopranos’, the death of its venerated star earlier this year hardly registered with me. Travelling through Italy on a sweltering June 19th, James Gandolfini suffered a fatal heart attack. With a reputation for violence, his applauded performance as Tony Soprano was no where near my radar as a must view, for back in the day I eschewed the American product for what I considered the far superior British. With the exceptions of ‘Chicago Hope’, ‘Hill Street Blues’ and ‘Ally McBeal’, it was ‘all the way with the UK ‘ for this punter. Beautiful Talented Daughter still laments the passing of ‘Friends’, and my Darling Loving Partner has never been a blinkered Anglophile in her wide ranging tastes. With their assistance I have come around. I am now of a different mind having discovered gems like ‘Mad Men’, ‘Californication’, ‘Boardwalk Empire’, ‘True Blood’, ‘Weeds’ and ‘House of Cards’ – yes, I know the latter is based on the superb Brit series of the same name, but for my money Kevin Spacey out nasties Ian Richardson. My world has opened up. I am making up for lost time by working my way through ‘The West Wing’, so maybe one day I’ll look into ‘The Sopranos’ as well.

In the words of Brad Pitt, Gandolfini was ‘…a ferocious actor, gentle soul and a genuinely funny man.’ The last two attributes were well to the fore in the movie I tootled off to see earlier this week. ‘Enough Said’ was a wonderful experience and I became instantly enamoured of the big bear of a man who starred. Sadly, as this was his penultimate movie, there will be no chance for a ‘bromance’ to develop.,

As stated, he is a large man, but as with Depardieu, that does not seem to be a limiting factor on screen. His weight may have been a factor in his demise, but seeing as he was of the same age as me minus a decade, he went far too early. He had been featured on the cinema screen before he ‘made it’ on the small one, but generally speaking the Hollywood system has been slow in transferring successful television celebrities into the multiplexes. We know there have been exceptions – Eastwood, Tim Allen, some of the ‘Friends’, Robin Williams – but generally the rule applies. Seeing Gandolfini do his stuff with Julia Louis-Dreyfus (‘Seinfield’ – which also passed me by), we sure have been missing something. His co-star was quite lovely in this, with her weird facial expressions at once perplexing and endearing. Now of course there is the reverse occurring with big Hollywood names, such as Spacey, Steve Buscemi and Claire Danes et al, being attracted into our living rooms courtesy of fine scripting.

There is an easy and engaging on screen chemistry between Gandolfini and Dreyfus, even if they did have issues in coordinating their ‘lovemaking’. The big man’s charm, humour and comfort in his own skin wins over the audience from the get go – the one I shared my excursion with, all of a certain age, were wrapped up in him from his initial scene, an appearance at a party. Here Albert (Gandolfini) first meets Eva (Dreyfus) and she, his ex-wife Marianne (Catherine Keener). Eva becomes his lover, but also fast friends with the latter. Marianne constantly disses out to her on Albert, unbeknown of her relationship with him. Albert also knows zip about their friendship – thus the scene is set up for the ups and downs of what follows. The humour was gentle but my crowd ate it up. I suspect many related it to goings on in their own back stories. Gandolfini’s expressive face lit up the screen – he could convey so much with just a crinkle of the eyes or a shrug of the shoulders. It is so sad the world will not be treated to more of the actor in roles like this.

enough_said_header

Director Nicole Holofcener first came to my attention with ‘Friends With Money’, so she is obviously a dab hand with these ensemble pieces. Keener was a touch grating in her role as the ex-wife, but then that was probably deliberate. Our own Toni Collette shines as Eva’s bestie, even getting to keep her Aussie accent.

There are many scenes that stick, including Albert’s reaction when he finally discovers Eva’s duplicity. There are his defences of his obnoxious daughter’s ((Eve Hewson) unfeeling pronouncements, but the one that really got to me was a scene that strangely didn’t involve the lead male. This was the sending off of Eva’s daughter (Tracey Fairaway), a more sensitive example of the species, to college. The attempts by Eva and her ex-hubby to keep their emotions under control are beautiful to behold. There are also Albert’s problems with guacamole to savour, as well as Eva’s mentoring of Chloe (Tavi Gevinson), her daughter’s needy friend. Rich, rich stuff. One reviewer has stated that the film sits better had the viewer no knowledge of the two main characters’ television fame – thus they wouldn’t be constantly referring back to Tony/Elaine – so perhaps that was in my favour enjoyment-wise.

The hopes and pitfalls of ‘second time around’ vividly come to life in this movie with a subtlety that puts it way above most of the dross that comes out of tinsel town on a similar theme. In these mid-life relationships we are perhaps more wary, but just as needy and even more thankful when it does ‘work’. The ending to ‘Enough Said’ is a given, but the whole affair is none the worse for that. There is nothing more wonderful than finding the right person to share the latter part of one’s life with.

Gandolfini had a daughter only last year with his second wife Deborah Lin. The combined sadness of all his fans would no where equate to her loss. At least, though, there is this magic movie performance for her to remember him by.

gandolfini and lin

The movie’s website = http://www.enoughsaidmovie.com/#section-trailer

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