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Laura Shamas, Ph.D. Headshot

Hit and Myth: Enough Said

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Does peer pressure still influence us in adulthood? Is gossip or rumor powerful enough to ruin a budding middle-age romance? Filmmaker Nicole Holofcener, writer and director of Enough Said, cleverly depicts the slippery slope of how a divorced masseuse named Eva (played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus) allows her new romance with Albert, a television archivist (James Gandolfini), to be tarnished by his ex-wife's post-divorce perspectives.

Enough Said, as romantic comedy, points to Los Angeles as a place where the Greek personification Pheme, equivalent to the Roman monster Fama, thrives. Worshipped by altar at Athens, Pheme was a tremendous gossip, and spread rumors quickly. The allegorical Fama was described by Ovid as living in a home with a thousand windows so she could better hear everything being said in the world. In The Aeneid, Virgil wrote that Fama had multiple eyes and ears to collect information; she delighted in announcing each new turn in the romance of Aeneas and Dido.

The entertainment industry is driven by aspects of the entities of Pheme and Fama. Tabloid gossip or "Hollywood" news about projects, stars, and creatives is a daily part of business. Refreshingly, in Holofcener's film, we see the trickle down effect on those people whose work is tangential to the dream factories: the masseuse Eva, the archivist Albert, the poet Marianne (Catherine Keener).

Eva's daily routine in west Los Angeles consists of carrying her bulky massage table into homes and setting it up where they tell her to -- portable healing -- and kneading their woes away. Her clients smell, talk non-stop about shallow details during her sessions, and are self-involved -- unable to see that she needs help carrying her gear up a steep flight of stairs. As a single mom, Eva has a college-bound daughter Ellen (Tracey Fairaway) about to go away to Sarah Lawrence College. Eva's closest friend is Sarah (Toni Collette), who works as a therapist out of her home, and is married to Will (Ben Falcone).

Sarah and Will take Eva to a party where she meets Marianne, who becomes Eva's new client and friend. At the same party, separately, she's introduced to Albert. It isn't until later, after she's become closer to both, that Eva realizes whom they're speaking about during discussions of their exes. But instead of telling either of them about her realization, Eva keeps quiet, hoping to learn more gossip about Albert from his ex-wife.

In well-known locations in Pacific Palisades, such as the spectacular Bluff Walk overlooking the Pacific Coast Highway, and Elyse Walker's store on Antioch, and with other references to Santa Monica, Eva inhabits a tony, status-filled world. She's impressed when Marianne mentions that she knows Joni Mitchell, or when Marianne's adoring fans approach them on the Bluff. In contrast, Albert loves his job as a television archivist, but he's not concerned with status or celebrity. He cares about his daughter Tess (Eve Hewson), who's also about to embark for college for the first time. The empty nest syndrome applies to both Eva and Albert, who worry about their daughters' futures.

Insecure, Eva begins to doubt her own feelings about Albert, based on what she hears from Marianne's past experiences with him. What if her poet-friend is right about Albert? Eva is scared to truly commit to a future with him. The seeds of doubt flower: Eva begins to find fault with Albert, and is even cruel to her new boyfriend during a double date with Sarah and Will.

In The Myth of Analysis, James Hillman writes: "Gossip is after all a primary activity of the psyche. Something psychological is going on in our craving for tales of souls in a mess. Such tales express the psyche's myth-making function at the personal level of storytelling, tale-tattling...Gossip provides the psychic ballast of human dirt that keeps us down to earthly involvement" (26). Does Eva's need to hear marital tales of Albert signify her unconscious desire to resolve her own soul-making issues? Holofcener beautifully shows, aided by terrific, resonant performances by Louis-Dreyfus, Gandolfini (wonderful in one of his final roles), Keener and Collette, how gossip may destroy a matter of the heart--but that it may also propel us onward to true soul-searching.

Love triumphs Pheme/Fama in the film. In a final scene, there's a drive-by exchange of hope and understanding that concludes with laughter on an open porch on Thanksgiving Day -- a symbolic, elegant ending with a focus on forgiveness.