Tag Archives: James Gandolfini

LFF Review – Enough Said

Enough Said is a film that will be released in the wake of tragic circumstances – the death of James Gandolfini – and as a result, it may not always get judged by its merits alone, which is a shame, because it’s great and is more than capable of standing on its own two feet.

It tells the story of Eva and Albert (Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini), both middle-aged and divorced, who meet at a party, and in the wake of saying neither is attracted to anyone there, begin a tentative relationship, with both of them slightly surprised at the type of person that they’re with. From the off it’s clear that Louis-Dreyfus and Gandolfini have superb chemistry (and Gandolfini proves to be an accomplished comic actor), and simply watching them meet and awkwardly make small talk is a joy in itself. While at the party, Eva also meets Marianne who, she later discovers, is Albert’s ex-wife. This dynamic is what propels most of the drama in the film, but the problem is, it’s not as interesting as it could be and occasionally feels like a distraction from the best part of the film; the relationship between Eva and Albert.

From their first date onwards – and with the help of an excellent script – there is not a single moment that rings false, all of the humour feels genuine; both things that are said, and the awkward pauses in the conversations, and none of the drama is forced. The dramatic aspects of the film, particularly the turmoil on Eva and Albert’s relationship after he discovers Eva’s friendship with his ex-wife, are among its best moments, and seeing Louis-Dreyfus perform something more serious than comic is a rare pleasure.

Enough Said isn’t exactly groundbreaking however, it follows a similar structure to most romantic comedies, as well as a sub-plot about Eva’s daughter going to college, but fortunately it never feels like its retreading old ground, its excellent execution of standard ideas mean it always feels like a breath of fresh air. Its helped by a strong supporting cast, including Toni Collette as a friend of Eva’s (even if her accent does jump around a bit) and Ben Falcone as Collette’s husband, who steals scenes constantly and provides some of the film’s biggest laughs. It also never feels empty, no plots or characters are wasted and, even if it’s telling us things we already know about second chances and people moving on in their lives, watching these characters in particular navigate it is what makes it so good.

Refreshing, witty, and with moments of understated and effective drama, Enough Said may be forever marred by tragedy, but should instead be a reminder to the singular talent of James Gandolfini. It’s a damn great film, and I can only hope the circumstances surrounding its release won’t change that.

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Review – Killing Them Softly

The last time Brad Pitt and Andrew Dominik worked together, the result was the fantastic, neo-western The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, so with them reuniting for Killing Them Softly, expectations were, to understate it, quite high.

The film is about a mob enforcer, who hunts down small time crooks after they heist a mob-protected poker game. The enforcer is Jackie, played by Pitt. Much like with their previous collaboration, Dominik gets an excellent understated performance from Pitt, which works fantastically well in counterpoint to some of the more frantic characters across from him like James Gandolfini’s Mickey.

Gandolfini steals the film, bringing explosive energy and power that utterly consumes the screen whenever he’s on it, it’s impossible to not be focused on him. The rest of the ensemble are all on top form, from Ray Liotta’s Markie, who has to put it mildly, a bad run in with the mob, that results in explosive, visceral violence. Richard Jenkins plays Jackie’s driver, and his character’s name is that simple – Driver. While it may seem like a minor, uninteresting role, Jenkins’ gravitas and excellent chemistry with Pitt make his scenes some of the most enjoyable in the film.

The films most gaping flaw is its utter lack of subtlety or restraint. Not in terms of its violence, which is surprisingly rare, and very brutal, including an exceptionally well made death scene that shows that Dominik is truly developing his technical eye as a filmmaker. The lack of restraint comes in the political message of the film. It opens with presidential speeches and campaign posters. And then, during the mob poker games, there are always clips of politicians talking about the economy. It’s painfully clear that Dominik is comparing mobsters to politicians, and while it’s certainly an interesting message, he uses so much that it feels as if he;s flogging a dead horse. I can’t help but wish that after the fourth or fifth time he draws the comparison that someone would just tell him that we get it.

The pacing is by no means perfect, and although it establishes the story and some of the characters well, particularly in giving Liotta some excellent scenes, it feels as if the film is just meandering through typical narrative motions before Jackie arrives on the scene to shake things up. Perhaps that’s an issue with a slightly predictable story, it has to go through typical motions to begin with. But once it breaks free of them, it’s an excellent piece of filmmaking, and it has a fantastic, understated ending that’s etched into my mind, and was so much more effective than the political hammering that plagued the film.

By no means perfect, Killing Them Softly is hampered by a predictable first act, and an overwrought political message. However, it’s fascinating to see how Dominik has developed as a filmmaker, and his exceptionally talented cast form one of the best ensembles of the year. It’s slick filmmaking with a savage end result, and well worth seeking out.

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