James Gandolfini, Julia Louis-Dreyfus in love? ‘Enough Said’

Fox Searchlight Pictures photo by LACEY TERRELL -- James Gandolfini and Julia Louis-Dreyfus lead the cast of 'Enough Said.' Show caption
Fox Searchlight Pictures photo by LACEY TERRELL -- James Gandolfini and Julia Louis-Dreyfus lead the cast of 'Enough Said.'

Reviewer’s Rating: 3 and 1/2 out of 4 stars

It’s rare to see a romantic comedy showing middle-aged characters falling in love. The single parents Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini play in “Enough Said” explore that territory.

Louis-Dreyfus, born in 1961, plays Eva, a masseuse who makes a living by driving from one home appointment to the next. She hauls her heavy massage board along. Gandolfini, also born in 1961, co-stars as Albert, a television archivist who delights in his job of preserving TV’s past.

Appropriately for Albert’s work, “Enough Said” is set in Los Angeles, largely in what’s known as Westside. The area includes Culver City, Mar Vista, Venice, Santa Monica and Brentwood. It never seems to rain there, but Eva hears a potentially darker side of affluent, sun-kissed Westside while she administers massages. Her clients are relentlessly self-centered.

Eva meets Albert after her married friends, Sarah and Will (Toni Collette and Ben Falcone), drag her to a party.

“There’s not one man at this party who I am attracted to,” Eva says in sight and earshot of Albert. He responds, saying there’s not one woman at the party he is attracted to. Albert is kidding. He’s attracted to Eva.

The two of them have much in common: Daughters who are about leave home for college; friction-ridden relationships with their former spouses; few if any friends.

“Enough Said,” written and directed by Nicole Holofcener (“Lovely and Amazing,” “Friends With Money”), is a movie at home in its Westside L.A. skin. Holofcener knows the place. It’s the 53-year-old TV and film veteran’s backyard.

There’s familiarity, too, in the way Eva and Albert strike up an easy rapport. Even so, it’s still revelatory to see a movie show two nice, normal, imperfect people in their early 50s falling in love.

The tender, tentative progress of their relationship rings believably, and Louis-Dreyfus and Gandolfini were great choices to play the roles. His Albert is a warm teddy-bear man and something of a nerd. Her Eva is bright-eyed, alive, suddenly open to a life less lonely.

Having dinner in a restaurant where a young waiter treats them badly, Albert tells his professional masseuse date, “You have lovely hands.” “You have nice hands, too,” she responds. “Kind of like paddles.”

The actors improvise in scenes, but Holofcener shows that she’s a wonderful writer. That begins with the characters she’s created and continues with the vexing corner Eva paints herself into.

After creating a blooming romance, one made more special by Eva and Albert’s solitary lives, Holofcener cleverly complicates things. A nagging discontent creeps into Eva and Albert’s relationship. Things get heavy.

Meanwhile, Holofcener’s depth in character-writing extends to Albert’s diva daughter and Eva’s new client, a famous poet played by an actress who often appears in the director’s films, Oscar-nominee Catherine Keener.

“Enough Said” also serves as a lovely tribute to Gandolfini, who died in June at 51.

The film doesn’t contain the actor’s final performance — a crime drama called “Animal Rescue” will be released next year — but his performance as Albert shows a comic, gentle side of Gandolfini that truly charms.

Director: Nicole Holofcener

Cast: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, James Gandolfini, Catherine Keener, Toni Collette

RATING: PG-13 for for sexual content, some thematic material and brief language.

RUNNING TIME: 1 hr., 33 mins.

Where playing: The Theatres at Canal Place, AMC Elmwood Palace 20