Early on in Enough Said—the new film from director Nicole Holofcener—the characters played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini sit in a restaurant attempting to have a first date. Over the din of the hip eatery, the pair engages in the sort of awkward getting-to-know-you exercises that anyone who’s braved dating knows all too well. Luckily, sitting with Holofcener in a Manhattan restaurant is much less uncomfortable.
Enough Said is Holofcener’s fifth feature since her 1996 debut Walking and Talking, and while it might be a stretch to call her prolific, the filmmaker’s work has inspired a devoted following thanks to her smart, charming style. It’s on display in this film, which follows Dreyfus’ massage therapist as she falls for Gandolfini, the loathed ex of a client whom she very much wants to befriend.
Director Nicole Holofcener (center) with Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Catherine Keener
DuJour sat with Holofcener the day of her film’s premiere to talk about bad first dates, working with Gandolfini and what she’s missing as the mother of boys.
Enough Said revolves around the idea that people can have different experiences loving the same person. What have people believed to be a truth about you that is, in your opinion, not the case?
What’s odd is that people always say I look really relaxed, and I’m never really relaxed. Well not never, but you know. It’s a good misrepresentation, though, so I’ll take it.
What’s appealing about that idea?
I’m sure my ex-husband doesn’t say the best things about me, but my boyfriend thinks I’m great. And I’m the same girl. At least I think I am.
You’ve more or less mastered the awkward date scene. What keeps you revisiting it?
In this movie, they had to have a first date. Initially he wasn’t someone she was attracted to, and she decided to give it a shot. Putting two strangers together and trying to end up with them attracted to one another was what I needed to write my story. It’s a challenge, and it’s fun. I put myself in their shoes, and I feel awkward, uncomfortable and embarrassed writing it.
The idea of friendship is also integral to your movies. In this film, there are a few scenes that hinge on platonic betrayals. Why’s it so important to you?
My female friendships are so important to me, and when we fight it’s almost scarier than fighting with my boyfriend. I write about what’s prominent in my life and my mind, and my friends are always there.
It’s something that the adults grapple with, but so do the kids.
It starts early, that lack of communication and betrayal. It started early for me, that’s for sure. My female friendships were so dramatic starting from the time I was 11. Girls can be so awful but also so fantastic. It really shaped who I am.
You yourself have sons, though?
Boys have their own drama for sure; it’s not like they just sit around talking about football. In adolescence, though, girls have a larger internal life. I don’t have to deal with that.
Speaking of teen girls, you cast their patron saint Tavi Gevinson in this film. How’d that happen?
I didn’t know who she was before this. The casting person said I had to meet this person who was really cool, and she came in. She wanted to audition, so I said why not. I didn’t look her up, which is good. She came in and charmed me right away. I’m so glad I’m older than her because if I wasn’t, I’d probably be jealous.
What went into the other casting choices?
I’d met Jim a couple of years before for another part. He wasn’t right for that, but I had enjoyed meeting him. When it came time to cast this movie, I didn’t write it with him in mind, but when his name came up, it had to be him.
With Julia, it was similar. I was a huge fan for years, so when the opportunity to have lunch with her came up, I ran. We hit it off right away and she was, in person, so right for the part. We were really similar, and since the part is clearly based on me—or maybe not so clearly—I wanted her.
Ganolfini and Dreyfu
People are going to be looking at this film closely because it’s one of Gandolfini’s last movies. That’s a big responsibility.
It sucks. Mainly because he’s not here. It’s unfortunate in every way possible. I will never know how this movie would have been received if he was here doing this with me. It’s a very strange kind of honor that I don’t feel I deserve. I suddenly have what feels like a very intimate relationship with him, when our relationship wasn’t that. We became friends, we worked together for a couple of months, but it’s a weird position to be put in. I feel incredibly lucky that I got to work with him. It’s just tragic.
You say that the character of Eva is based on you. So you must have had some bad first dates.
If I remember, I probably wouldn’t even tell you. I have a long-time boyfriend so that’s not my problem right now. I like to think of myself as mature. I have kids, I’ve been through a divorce, no one’s going to fuck with me, right? No. You go on a first date, and you’re 17 all over again. All your insecurities come flying out; you want to make a good impression. I was once sitting at a table with this guy, and he was talking about other women in the restaurant he thought were attractive—talk about a red flag!—and I didn’t get up. In fact, I went out with him again. I threw my brain out the window, and that’s sad, but we do that.