Thursday, September 26, 2013

Nicole Holofcener Stays True To Her Life, Her Fears And Her Convictions

On set: Filmmaker Nicole Holofcener is flanked by her "Enough Said" stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Catherine Keener.  Fox Searchlight


Omar P.L. Moore/        Follow popcornreel on Twitter FOLLOW                                           
Thursday, September 26, 2013


"What should I do in London?," Nicole Holofcener asks.  Told the weather there can be fickle, the New York City filmmaker, who will be in England's capital city soon, wonders if it's rain season across the pond.  It's sunny and raining in the same hour and the same time on occasion, she hears.  Weather, like life itself, is unpredictable, but with positive reviews the sun is shining on Ms. Holofcener's latest feature film "Enough Said", which opened in New York City and Los Angeles last week. 

The director's question about London, while asked as a matter of casual conversation, may on a subconscious level reflect similar worries she has about topics she explores on the big screen.  In "Enough Said" it's the empty nest, moving through one's fifties and post-divorce relationships.  Each of these is part of Ms. Holofcener's personal life, and her film takes them on in refreshingly adult, honest ways. 

This passionate, open, funny and serious filmmaker is now curled up in a seat, sometimes flicking her brunette hair back over her shoulders, as a warm, sunny early Fall evening embarks here.  Wearing a earth brown blouse, black pants and boots, Nicole Holofcener looks comfortable and -- despite the anxieties she voices -- relaxed.

"I don't know what I'm doing.  It's really hard," says Ms. Holofcener on raising her twin 16-year-old sons, who live at home with her in Los Angeles.  "I can't quite imagine my life without them.  I'm going to have to, you know, learn some new knitting stitches," jokes the director in her trademark dead pan way.  Ms. Holofcener is concerned about when her sons head to college, and where that will leave her. 

What Nicole Holofcener has just said, and the tone of what she has said, has comedy, fear and a semblance of tragedy in it, as do her feature films.  "I love to make people cry," she says in production notes for "Enough Said", her fifth film and her first shot entirely on location in Los Angeles. 

"You shouldn't have to relate, I hope, to the material to be moved by it," explains the filmmaker, whose new film stars Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Eva, a Los Angeles masseuse and divorcee whose daughter moves East to Sarah Lawrence College, leaving Eva to contemplate the rest of her life in her 50s.  "Enough Said" is also a comedy and drama about complex emotional entanglement, middle-age, transition and companionship.  The film offers a sensible, reasoned and entertaining diet of dialogue, contemplation and good acting.  It's the kind of 21st century film that has fallen deaf on big budget Hollywood studio ears, and often on audiences. 

When someone says that a moviegoer will always get an honest, intellectual film from Nicole Holofcener, the director herself interrupts, shouting for emphasis. 

"That makes no money!  That nobody sees!"

Citing that "Enough Said" is doing well in the early going Ms. Holofcener further assures her listener that "my other movies do get seen."  Of her previous films, from "Walking And Talking", her debut feature in 1996, through her last, "Please Give", released in 2010, she says, "I still get checks, so I know they're still out there."

Despite the lukewarm box office performance of her films overall, what Ms. Holofcener laments more is "the Hollywood slick romantic comedy."  She is tired of the genre as cultivated today in Tinseltown.

"They're churned out by a machine, it feels like," she says ruefully.

Ms. Holofcener -- who abhors labels ("'women directors'", 'black director' . . . if you're not a white man . . . well, fuck you!") -- isn't a fan of the way women are represented in romantic comedies.

"Can't find anything in her big purse.  She falls and the cab . . . splashes her . . . yeah." 

Ms. Holofcener's droll tone as she says this -- her tone is the verbal equivalent of an eye roll, if you can possibly picture that -- is the punctuation to an exasperated voice yearning for something different.  Which is where "Enough Said" (distributed in North America by Hollywood mini-major Fox Searchlight Pictures) comes in. 

Conversation inevitably turns to James Gandolfini, who passed away in the summer. 

"He's created a beautiful performance.  And I'm very sad he isn't here to share in this fun and to see his daughter grow up and his son.  It's horrible," says the director of her late "Enough Said" star, who plays Albert, a divorced man whose daughter is also departing L.A. for college.  Albert is the kind of man who is closest perhaps to who Mr. Gandolfini truly was offscreen. 

"Let's hope so.  Let's hope he's not too close to Tony Soprano," Ms. Holofcener says wryly.

"When I met him his size and his fame was initially intimidating but he was really sweet, and very dry, sarcastic sense of humor.  Very self-effacing.  Funny, really charming.  He was perfect for the part.  He nailed it.  And, damn.  He's not here." 

In "Enough Said", Albert, whom Eva dates, has his fair share of insecurities, and Mr. Gandolfini, brought a lot of those to the table as a person despite his success as an actor.

"Part of him trusted me enough to go ahead and embarrass himself.  And that's why his performance is so beautiful because you can clearly see.  He's in it.  And any actor who's really in it is inevitably going to embarrass themselves.  I mean, it's embarrassing to be vulnerable," Ms. Holofcener observes.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Nicole Holofcener are kindred spirits.  Both are in their fifties, from New York City, and have two kids. 

"She has much better clothes than me.  Much better clothes.  Can walk in high heels.  She's much more of a lady than I am.  But we are very similar.  And boy, did we have laughs.  Pee-in-your-pants laughs."

Audio excerpts: Nicole Holofcener

"Enough Said" opens in San Francisco and other additional U.S. cities on Friday.


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