The star of The Sopranos and the (other) star of Seinfeld together in a romantic comedy? Be still my heart. This movie was sort of made for me.
Actually, it wasn’t as epic as I thought, but then again, I probably shouldn’t have thought it epic. That’s a good thing, by the way! A story about the relationship between two middle-aged divorcees shouldn’t be overly dramatic or high-stakes. It should be normal, and this movie just oozed with quiet normalcy. Again, that’s a compliment.
I read a lot about this movie beforehand, about how James Gandolfini was very self-conscious about performing the role of Albert, and how he didn’t find himself attractive, and all of these very humble musings that just reinforce how incredible lovable the guy was, and how sorry it is that he’s not with us anymore. His Albert is the true definition of grace, elegance, understatement, and dignity. He’s a lonely guy who falls for a slightly zanier, but mostly very similar woman. It’s a love story of very manageable, subdued proportions.
There were times when I wanted that “epic” feeling to kick in. It’s the stupid, farcical feeling I get when watching most romantic comedies, especially when the couple has broken up at the ol’ one-hour turning point. If you’re a sappy girl, like I can be sometimes, you get that lump in your throat and you want them to turn on the rain machine and have that bullshit scene where the two of them realize they were wrong and then run back to each other. It’s absurd that I’d even think that, but I’ve seen so many of these crap movies that I come to expect it, even still. And yet I didn’t get that feeling with this movie, because I felt like, even if the two didn’t get back together, that would be fine. They would go about their lives because they are adults with lives, and they’d move on to the next person. It’s not even really clear if they got back together in the end, but there is a sliver of hope.
I mentioned that the stakes were pretty low here, but only because neither character took themselves that seriously. They didn’t proclaim to their friends (in the case of Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ Eva, anyway) that they deserved someone amazing, nor did they spend a lot of time thinking about how great they are in voice-over form. But there was an underlying tenseness to the movie, perhaps due to the fact that both Eve and Albert had daughters going off to school in the fall. Time was running out for both of them to enjoy having their children at home, as children anyway, and this fear projected itself onto their relationship a little bit. Eva also developed a friendship with her daughter Ellen’s friend Chloe, played by Rookie mag’s Tavi Gevinson, that made me jealous for Ellen. It was so painful to watch this innocent friend, who lacked the awesome stability at home that Eva had established for her daughter, glom on to Ellen, and then more directly to Eva. I know I’d be jealous.
I’m so glad that Julia Louis-Dreyfus was actually in a movie. According to my deduction skills and IMDb, she hasn’t been in one since 1997. She’s lent her voice to many animated movies, sure, but she’s never taken over the big screen with her big personality. She is built for the nuances and character development of TV, but I hope this ushers in a few more movies like this for her. Nicole Holofcener knows how to write for her, I think, in a way that makes you forget how zany JLD is. Her strength is in her zaniness, of course, but JLD doesn’t often get to strut her sensitive side, and I think as she gets older she’ll probably gravitate towards that, to keep things new and interesting. (And there’s always a Nancy Meyers movie if she wants to go the cheesier route.) Holofcener also knows how to keep comedy nerds happy; I saw so many Groundlings strewn about this movie! (Ben Falcone, Michaela Watkins, Jessica St. Clair…) And Toni Collette got to keep her Aussie accent, for once. Cherry on top.