I’d been meaning to see this latest indie comedy from director Nicole Holofcener, but never got to it until tonight. It was well worth the wait – not the greatest film, by any means, but a charming tale with a wonderful, understated performance by James Gandolfini that made me miss him even more.
He plays Albert, whose ex-wife (Holofcener regular Catherine Keener) is a celebrated poet who befriends Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), a massage therapist who happens to be dating Albert. He doesn’t know that Eva knows his ex-wife and his ex-wife doesn’t know Eva knows Albert – and Eva doesn’t tell either of them. Squirm-worthy hijinks ensue.
The setup is irresistible and the send-ups of pretentious/clueless LA types are dead on. And the leads all do a good job with their characters. Louis-Dreyfus is getting a lot of buzz for her role, but for me this is Gandolfini’s movie. He does so much with Albert, a nice guy who eats too much and doesn’t care much about his appearance or that of his house but is devoted to his college-bound daughter. He expresses a range of emotions without mugging for the camera (Louis-Dreyfus makes so many faces I stopped counting them), and he manages to be sexy even while he’s shoving buttered popcorn into his mouth. He turns what might have been a conventional romantic comedy into a gem.