Julia Louis-Dreyfus

And the Oscar Does Not Go to … Nicole Holofcener


There can never be ‘Enough Said’ about this Academy snub.



On Sunday, when the five Oscar nominees for best original screenplay and their writers are read at the Dolby Theatre—the hold-your-breath moment before the actual winner is announced—an egregious error will once again be cemented. By many accounts, Nicole Holofcener should have been part of that list, but she was snubbed. Her Enough Said was arguably one of the best movies of 2013, giving Julia Louis-Dreyfus the role of her life—and she rose to the occasion with a truly poignant performance—and casting the late, great James Gandolfini as the romantic lead, which he did beautifully.

Holofcener, who also directs her movies, has a way with actors, teasing out stratified performances even from those not known for them. (Hello, Jennifer Aniston.) But in Enough Said, the screenplay’s the biggest star. Like a Carole King song, it’s frank, insightful, graceful, and true, and exposes our most unflattering insecurities and most profound fears with compassion, as when Eva (Louis-Dreyfus), a divorced masseuse, shows up unannounced at the home of Albert (Gandolfini), a museum archivist. They’ve been dating a while and are growing increasingly besotted with each other after meeting at a party—the same party where she also has unwittingly befriended his ex-wife, Marianne (Catherine Keener), who hates him. Eva is heartsick that he hasn’t returned her calls following a big reveal that rents them apart. “You broke my heart,” he explains. “And I’m too old for that shit.” How better to explain the fatigue of it all?

The film’s gilded with so many moments like these, which capture the weariness we feel at our most vulnerable. After Albert and Eva sleep together for the first time and settle into a post-coital snuggle, Eva declares, trusting enough to finally let her guard down, “Oh God, I’m tired of being funny.” Which is the first time, perhaps ever in Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s career, that she ever lets her guard down, and allows herself to be totally real. And not be funny. Because while laughter is the dating scene’s saving grace—especially in what can sometimes feel like the post-apocalyptic world of dating-after-divorce—and the armor that protects us, things get pretty goddamn heavy from here.  

Enough Said examines other relationships, too, and from an unabashedly female point of view—and Holofcener resists the clichés. There’s Eva’s long good-bye to her college-bound daughter, who’s practicing what it’s like to be distant from her mother even as she clings to what little time they have left. Every pull generates a push; every tug a corresponding yank. Who do we become when one of our biggest jobs—being a parent—no longer demands so much of our time?

And Eva’s friendship with Marianne defies the “you-go-girl” BFF b.s. that plagues so many movies. They start, like so many women’s friendships do, with bonding sessions, building intimacy, slowly and hesitantly at first, until they build a trust in and feel indispensable to each other. Holofcener renders it so faithfully, you can feel them falling in platonic love, those infatuation goggles blinding Eva to her new friend’s flaws; in fact, so blinded, that Eva perceives her to be more together than she is and loses herself in her a little. Eva sees Marianne as far more cultured—she grows chervil, nothing so boring as parsley or basil—and has a proper house. She begins to adopt Marianne’s views of Albert, and in the process forgets how much she adores him.

It’s not easy to write people as complex and exposed as these. Unfortunately, the Oscars don’t always reward those who write them. Especially female writers. Of the 14 screenwriters nominated for 10 movies in the original and adapted screenplay categories this year, only two are women: Julie Delpy for the excellent Before Midnight and Melisa Wallack for Dallas Buyers Club. (Both share credit with male co-authors.)

Last year, there was only one: Lucy Alibar for Beasts of the Southern Wild. In fact, the last time a woman won in either category was in 2007, when Diablo Cody was recognized for Juno. Hollywood in general hasn’t been that welcoming to female writers. According to The Celluloid Ceiling, a 2012 study of women in film, “women accounted for 15 percent of writers working on the top 250 films of 2012; 78 percent of the films had no female writers.” (Don’t even ask about directors and cinematographers—their numbers run a paltrier 9 percent and 2 percent among the top 250 films in 2012.)

“I just want to create characters that I can relate to, and be as honest about them as people as I can be,” Holofcener told Elle in a 2010 interview. “That’s what I want to see when I go to the movies.”

It’s what we want to see, too. But we often don’t. Only handfuls of the hundreds of movies greenlit each year pass the Bechdel Test—named after cartoonist Alison Bechdel, who addressed gender bias in movies in a 1985 strip, it outlines a bare-minimum way of recognizing those that try to flaunt conventions: first, it has two women who, second, talk to each other and, third, they talk about anything besides men—so we shouldn’t be surprised. (It’s appalling how many don’t make the cut, and these aren’t high standards by any stretch of the imagination.) We should be alarmed.

So to hell with the Oscars. They break our hearts, and we’re too old for that shit.

 

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