Movie review: Enough Said

Independent_Box_Office_James_Gandolfini_s-d8b98077ddd345518d64b1a0a169f649September 30, 2013 – I apologize for mistakenly publishing an unfinished draft of this review yesterday. That version has been deleted, and the full review appears below.

As long as baby boomers go to the movies, we can be certain the studios will make romantic dramas and comedies about people falling in love later in life. Maybe not as often as the typical romcoms, but with Meryl Streep and Diane Keaton still active in the business, we’re sure to be treated to at least one top quality gem per year.

Now, we can add James Gandolfini and Julia Louis-Dreyfus to the middle-aged love story mix.

In their current release “Enough Said”, they are the perfect on screen pair. The story is intelligent and so real, I almost felt like I was watching some of my friends on screen.

The low-budget film, from writer/director Nicole Holofcener is witty, charming, bittersweet and full of great conversation.

Holofcener is no stranger to the genre, giving us such adult relationship stories as “Friends with Money” and “Lovely and Amazing”. Aside from Gandolfini and Louis-Dreyfus, she casts the usual suspect, Catherine Keener, who often appears in her movies, and Toni Collette. All are superb.

The premise of the story is unique, which is hard to do in the romcom business. Single mom, Eva, (Louis-Dreyfus) spends her days working as a masseuse. She also dreads the day her daughter will depart for college, which is quickly approaching. She meets Albert (Gandolfini), a teddy bear of a man with a sweet disposition, who also faces an empty nest come fall. The problem is that Albert doesn’t fit the expectations some women look for in a mate, and Eva is quite aware of that but continues to date him anyway. Their romance gets a little complicated as Eva befriends a new client, Marianne (Keener), who rags on her ex-husband excessively, and soon we discover that Marianne’s ex is Eva’s new beau, which makes her question her own choices in a mate.

Louis-Dreyfus proves her ability to play a leading lady and carry a film. Gandolfini is wonderful as Albert, and at showing his softer side, a huge difference from the other roles I’ve seen him in. I didn’t watch the Sopranos, but am familiar with the character, and have seen him in several films. He will be missed.

“Enough Said” offers a variety of emotions. I laughed heartily at the scene where Eva brings Albert to a dinner party to finally meet her friends, while I almost shed some tears in a few scenes I won’t mention, since they may spoil the plot. I enjoy a movie that can do that to me.

Rating: 4 – There is no reason why you can’t wait to see this on DVD, but if you enjoy a film experience in the theater, it’s one of the only good selections out there right now.

Rating system:

5. Great Movie, see it now
4. Good movie and worth the price of admission
3. It’s OK, but I’d wait for the DVD 
2. Proceed with caution

1. Don’t bother

Fall in Philadelphia

thSeptember 27, 2013 – Hall & Oates may have grumbled about spending another “Fall in Philadelphia” in their 1970s hit song, but the city and its surrounding suburbs is a spectacular place to be in the autumn. If you’re looking for something seasonal to do this weekend in the Philadelphia area, consider one of these attractions:

Ghost Tours of New Hope, Pa.
New Hope, the charming little Bucks County town that sits about 30 minutes outside of the city limits, is said to be one of the most haunted places in the country with roots and ghosts dating back to the 17th century. Even if you don’t believe in ghosts, the tours that take place each Friday and Saturday night in September and October are an interesting lesson in history. Tour guides take you on a lantern lit walk through some of the oldest streets in America, where who knows…you could run into the ghost of Aaron Burr. For more information, including pricing and directions, visit http://ghosttoursofnewhope.com/.

Peddler’s Village Scarecrow Festival
Take a walk on the cobblestone paths surrounding the quaint shops at Peddler’s Village and see some of the most imaginative scarecrows out there now through October 27. This year contestants created their scarecrows around themes including Philly Love, Traditional/Whirligig, Extraordinary Contemporary, Kids Only, Quite The Character, and Group Crow. Admission is free. Schedule your visit early, before the shops open to avoid crowds, especially on the weekends. I visited last year at 9 a.m. on a Sunday morning, and had the place to myself. For more information, visit http://www.peddlersvillage.com/festivals/scarecrow_competition_display.aspx.

Eastern State Penitentiary– Terror Behind the Walls
Eastern State Penitentiary is an interesting visit any time of year, but during the autumn, they pull out the big guns for their “Terror Behind the Walls” Halloween exhibit. As one of the nation’s premier haunted attractions, the exhibit, located in Philadelphia’s Fairmount neighborhood, isn’t for the faint of heart, so I’d think twice about bringing young children. Yes, it is that frightening. For 2013, Terror Behind the Walls will still have the six attractions, Hollywood-quality sets, and custom-designed props they are known for, but with a more sinister feel. Darker. Bloodier. Terror like you’ve never felt. It’s a must see for all of you who enjoy a good scare. For more information, visit http://www.easternstate.org/halloween/visit.

Linvilla Orchards
If you’re looking for more traditional, family-friendly fall fun with hayrides, pumpkin patches, and corn mazes, Linvilla Orchards offers the perfect escape. Located in scenic Delaware County, families are invited to visit Pumpkin Land, a yearly attraction at this working orchard, and join in all of the autumnal festivities between now and November 3. Other activities include apple and pumpkin picking, face painting, a hay maze and a lot more. Don’t forget to stop in at the corner store for the best fresh baked pies of the season. For more information, visit http://www.linvilla.com/family-fun/pumpkinland.

The joy of serial fiction: Unraveling, Part 8

Unraveling RopePart 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7

Unraveling, Part 8

One year before…

The tree-lined street could have been any neighborhood in suburbia, its charming streets filled with families with young children.

After living in a two-bedroom condominium for the first eight years of their marriage, Jess knew they were ready to venture into the world of PTA meetings, single homes, and Sunday barbecues. They decided to take the plunge and move into the lovely four-bedroom home they found on Willow Way, ideally located about a half-hour from both of their places of work. It was perfect. Kevin may have thought home was too large, but they would fill it soon enough. Both of them wanted at least three children, and she was already a few months pregnant with their first when they moved in five months ago.

She pulled into the driveway, turned off the ignition, and sat quietly for a moment. She watched her neighbor across the street pushing her two-year old baby girl in the swing in the backyard, and smiled. In a few short months, their lives would change, she thought. They had already, and she couldn’t be happier. Sure, they wouldn’t be able to take off for one of their exotic trips whenever they wanted to, or even go out to dinner and a movie without a major plan in motion, but the change would certainly be worth the sacrifice.

Jess grabbed the shopping bags and walked toward the house. She set out that morning looking for something dressy for a book signing party that evening–something that would look elegant on her seven-month pregnant frame. She settled on a modest black dress that was trimmed in black sequence, even though she decided it looked like it had enough fabric to make at least three dresses. She hadn’t gained too much weight in her seven months of pregnancy, but she still felt frumpy these days.

“It’s finished!” Kevin exclaimed, as he met her by the door taking the grocery bags from her hands. He wore a proud smile on his face, and it was contagious. The corners of her mouth turned up too as soon as she saw him. Then he helped her sit down while patting her pregnant belly. “How’s my little buddy today?” he asked.

“He’s restless.” Jess smiled, as she gave into believing she was carrying a boy, too. She glanced at the painting in the living room on the easel with the cloth over it. This was her unveiling and she was excited about it, too. Kevin had spent hours secluded in the fourth bedroom, which he turned into his art studio, and she was more than curious to see the outcome of his precious time.

They had been married for nine years, and for the most part, they were glorious. Once they decided to buy a single-family home, she realized it was finally the time was right to have a baby. They discovered she was pregnant just as they had their offer accepted on the new house. To commemorate the occasion, he decided to paint her portrait while pregnant to hang it in the new baby’s room.

“Are you ready?” he asked. He seemed as excited, and she couldn’t help but be excited, too.

“I’m ready, in more ways than one,” she answered with a smile. Her pregnancy was uneventful, but she was getting uncomfortable now, and she realized it would probably only get worse over the next two months.

He slowly took the cloth off, teasing her bit by bit as the tension began to build. Once it was unveiled, she looked at it and started to cry.

“It’s beautiful,” she said and she meant it. He painted her standing by a window looking down on the garden cradling her pregnant belly in her hands. She was wearing a white cotton sundress, and she knew it was to commemorate the one she wore in Jamaica on their first dinner date. She’d wanted to pose for it, and even offered several times, but he told her he knew every trace of her by heart and it wasn’t necessary. Now, she was glad she hadn’t. This was a welcome surprise.

“Of course it’s beautiful,” he said sincerely. “It’s you.” He stood watching her look at the painting and smiled.

# # #

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Jess replied nervously.

Kevin looked around at the shadows on the wall being cast by the candlelight. The lights had been out for almost an hour now, and he treaded on dangerous territory, but continued. Neither could run from what they needed to talk about. It was too late to turn back now. It was the decisive moment in both of their lives.

“What happened to us, Jess?” he asked with a grim voice. “We used to talk about everything and now we’re both afraid to cross this line with each other. Where did that line come from anyway? That’s not how our lives were supposed to be. That’s certainly not how it was before. It was….”

“Paradise,” she whispered softly as she closed her eyes. “We were the envy of most of our friends, weren’t we?”

Hearing her describe what their lives were gave him more hope than he’d had in the last year.

“We can mend it, Jess, I know we can.” He smiled softly and brushed her soft cheek with his hand. Jess welcomed his touch for a moment, then froze and moved away.

“No!” she shouted as the softness in her face disappeared. “It fell apart and can’t be mended, Kevin. It’s too late now. Life is moving on without me, and I have to move on, too, or I won’t make it.”

“You mean you have to pretend it didn’t happen,” he replied. “But that won’t work. God knows we tried to ignore it, and look what happened to us.” Kevin paused and rubbed his temples. He was getting a tension headache again, the kind that wouldn’t go away without laying down in complete silence. He couldn’t stop to do that now, pain or not. “You know I have that painting of you hanging in our bedroom,” he continued. “I took it down from the baby’s room, but I hung in it in our room.”

Jess looked tearful and shocked. “Why would you do that?” Inside he knew she was crumbling. He was, too. “How can you look at me pregnant every night? Doesn’t it kill you?”

It tortured him, but yet he couldn’t part with it or just throw it in the attic and cover it like they had done with their problems for the past year. He loved it so much and knew it was his best work for many reasons. “It actually helps me,” he said honestly. “Look, I know I didn’t make this any easier for you. I didn’t want to listen before, and I will regret that for the rest of my life. You needed me, and I wasn’t there. I couldn’t help you properly because I needed help, too. It destroyed me, too, Jess. I know you carried the baby, and it physically happened to you, but it destroyed me, too.”

She didn’t know what to say. She only stared at him as the tears started pouring down her face.

“I’m ready now, Jess,” he continued. “Maybe you can’t deal with this because I wouldn’t listen. Maybe you think I blame you, but I don’t. I don’t blame you at all. We’re not the only ones to have ever had a stillborn child. Help me out here.”

“You can’t tell me I’m not dealing with this properly,” she snapped.

“We’re not dealing with it at all.”

“I have dealt with everything I need to,” she replied between the tears. “It was a bad situation and I want to forget it. I don’t need to dwell on it. I need to move on.”

“Of course it was a bad situation, but how do you feel about it?”

“How the hell should I feel about it?” she snapped wickedly.

“I’m not sure, Jess. You tell me. God, you say I don’t show emotion. You cry at the drop of a hat or if you had a bad day at work. We lose a baby and you show me nothing at all. What does that mean? Why did you turn it all off so suddenly?”

She looked at him with bitterness, and replied, “OK, if you want to know the truth, I think it was a blessing.”

To be continued on Wednesday, October 2, 2012…

Welcome autumn

September 23, 2013 – Today we celebrate the first full day of autumn 2013.

The first day of autumn means that shorter days are ahead, along with beautiful bursts of colors in many parts of the word, plenty of pumpkins, and Vivaldi’s “Autumn” from his composition, “The Four Seasons”. Enjoy the season!

Doo wop Wildwood style

September 20, 2013 — It has been a wonderful vacation in Wildwood by the sea. I’ve spent the better part of the week reacquainting myself with this area of the Jersey Shore, a place where I spent all of my childhood vacations.

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Much has changed but it’s nice to see some of the old landmarks still exist:

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The Cork ‘N Bottle, a liquor store and bar was the site of my grandfather’s famous talent contest win back in 1976. He sang in one of his best performances that night, walked away with first prize, and I’m happy I got to witness it.

I also rediscovered that Wildwood loves its doo wop. Not only are the motels decked to the nines with lots of fun 1950s and 1960s themes, but some of the popular chains we all know play up to the doo wop style. No wonder I’ve been listening to the early 1960s radio station all week!

Wawa, an east coast convenience store sports a 1950s theme.
Wawa, an east coast convenience store sports a 1950s theme.
TD Bank has fun with doo wop

TD Bank has fun with doo wop

Walgreen's plays along, too

Walgreen’s plays along, too

And so does Subway

And so does Subway

The sun sets on the bay, and on my summer vacation. I'm coming home today.

The sun sets on the bay last night to mark the close of my summer vacation. I’m coming home today.

As for that age-old question, who has the better boardwalk pizza, Mack’s or Sam’s, here’s the scoop. I had my first slice of Sam’s this week, and while it was good, this girl was born and raised on Mack’s and plans to stay that way.

The joy of serial fiction: Unraveling, Part 7

Unraveling RopePart 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6

Unraveling, Part 7

“I thought we agreed to keep this safe,” Jess said softy. “No more talking about Jamaica. That was over 10 years ago, and it’s time to move on.”

Kevin nodded and offered a friendly smile. “As my lady wishes,” he replied.

“Do you have to be so sarcastic?” she asked.

He shrugged. “I don’t mean to be. I was just trying to be literary.” He smiled. “I like reminiscing. That time was special to me.”

“And it was special to me, too, but we can’t cling to it forever. Many bad things have happened along the way. One good memory won’t keep us together.

“We’ve had more than one good memory, Jess,” he said defensively. “We had 11 years’ worth in my opinion, with the slight exception of what happened last year. I still don’t understand why we can’t work through it, though. We’re strong, and I believe we can make this work despite our tragedy. I’ve actually heard that lots of couples actually feel closer after experiencing what we did.”

“That’s funny. I’ve read that it destroys most marriages.”

He shrugged. “Jess, please don’t think that way. We can make it through this. We’re not the first couple who…” She gave him a look that told him to proceed carefully. He got the message, and his gut instinct told him to slow down. “Do you remember how many hours we were trapped in that dining room in Jamaica?” he asked. “It was almost 24 hours. Let’s use this time wisely just as we did then. When we left that dining room all those years ago, we both knew we wanted a future together. You say we’ve both changed, so let’s get to know each other again. Who knows? By the end of this storm, we may realize that we still want a future together.”

She rolled her eyes like a child would. “I hardly think this little storm will last as long as a hurricane.”

“So what,” he replied. “Let’s make the best of the time we have and talk about what we always avoid. It might be just what we need.”

“No way!” she shouted as she looked at him with an angry face.

He knew he was fighting a losing battle, so again, he gave in. He only wanted to help, but she wasn’t ready for it. He had to think of a safe subject to keep the conversation going. Perhaps then, he could pull a sneak attack and make Jesse face what they both skillfully avoided this past year. “So how’s life at the bookstore?” he asked. “Is that a good topic of conversation?”

She was immediately eased, and offered him a smile. “It’s acceptable,” she said with a nod. “And the bookstore is great. We had a book signing last week for a local writer’s new novel. He was really inspirational, and he wants to help me with a piece I’m writing.”

“Great.” Just what he needed, he thought cynically. A new “he” in her life. She seemed to latch on to the creative type quite easily, but he held his tongue.

Jesse shrugged. “Look, I know you hate small talk. Actually, I know you don’t like to talk at all since it interferes with the TV schedule. We can just sit here in silence. That would be OK with me.”

“Why? I’m all ears now,” he said not about to be ruffled. “We can’t watch TV without electricity, so let’s chat. Do you see him much? Gary, I mean. Not the local writer.” He didn’t want to go there. “We may have a lot of time on our hands. Maybe you can help me understand why you turned to him for support. Besides, it’s a real question, Jesse. No sarcasm in it at all.”

“I don’t think we should discuss our current relationships. We both know where that leads.” She paused for a moment as if she was planning to reveal something huge. “I’ll tell you something just to put this silly argument to rest,” she said firmly. “Gary and I aren’t friendly anymore.”

The announcement brought him to full attention and to him there was no better news in the world. Except that she would want to try again. For now, though, he’d take what he could get. He hadn’t expected this, and it was so, so good. “What happened?”

“He’s moving to Boston right after the holidays,” she replied. She didn’t sound upset about it. Either she wasn’t, or she was hiding her feelings again. “He begins a temporary teaching assignment at one of the high schools up there and he’ll probably make it permanent.”

“You won’t go with him?”

She looked at him oddly. “Why would I? We never had that kind of relationship, Kevin. We were hardly even more than friends. You just had it over dramatized in your head.”

“How does that make you feel?” he asked, ignoring the last part of her last statement.

She rolled her eyes and threw her arms up in the air. “What are you my therapist now? I don’t know how it makes me feel but I know it must make you feel great.”

“Why would that make me feel great? We both lost you, Jesse. I don’t see how anyone gains from that.”

She shook her head. “He didn’t lose me Kevin, because he never had me. I’m fine about it, too. I’ll miss him as a friend, but I’m glad he’s going. So now that’s out of the way, what else do you want to talk about?”

“You know what I want to talk about, Jess. Why don’t we tackle it while you are on a roll? Like I said before, maybe we should deal with it while neither of us can run away.” She looked nervous again. He hadn’t pushed too much yet, but he did keep bringing it up hoping she’d give a little more.

“I think we should talk about your reason for the delay in signing our divorce papers, Kevin. That’s the real issue.”

“I’m not ready. And that isn’t the real issue here.”

“I know it’s difficult. We’ve been together for 11 years now, and married for ten of them. Now, this is the natural step.”

“Well it feels unnatural to me. It’s like a part of me is being severed and I don’t think I can handle that now.”

Jess was dumfounded. “I’m surprised you feel that way,” she said softly. “I think I’m almost flattered.”

“If you are truly surprised, you don’t know me at all.”

“You must admit you rarely show me emotion. What you said is almost poetic.”

Kevin shrugged. “You don’t think I have any emotions? If you mean I don’t cry every five minutes, you’re right. However, in a way I envy that you can do that. At least then, I knew how you felt.”

“You envy that about me?” she asked cynically.

“Yes. I’ve always tried to show you my passion. In my art, and in our relationship. I’ve just had a harder time with emotion. But to me, passion is more important anyway, especially if the emotion is negative.”

“There are lots of good emotions, too, you know.”

“Yes, I suppose there are.”

“You couldn’t even show me any emotion after it happened, Kevin. You used to be able to share everything with me. You used to feel deeply about everything in our lives.” She shook her head in confusion. “That’s why I don’t understand why you say I shut down. Don’t you see that’s exactly how I felt about you?”

“I admit I backed off, but i thought that’s what you needed. And when I tried, you told me I wasn’t not sensitive enough. I guess you expected me to act like one of the heroes in your novels.”

“You make it sound like I can’t separate reality from fiction. Please don’t make fun of me.”

He looked at her softly. “That is not my intention. But you are continuously disappointed in me and that hurts.”

“You’re an artist. You have the soul of an artist. But you let that die and became someone I didn’t know.”

“Someone you don’t know? Just because I paint walls instead of murals?” he shrugged. She certainly did confuse him. “You may not think what I do is worthy enough, but it supports us well, Jess. You certainly didn’t mind when I brought home my paycheck, did you?”

She looked at him and shook her head. “You’re getting way off course here. I don’t want to appear cold about this. I know ending a ten-year marriage isn’t easy, but we need to deal with it head on.”

“You’re right, Jess, we need to deal with it right now before we do anything else. We need to talk about the baby.”

To be continued on September 25, 2013…

Summer 2013: It’s a wrap!

thSeptember 16, 2013 – Summer 2013 will go out in style, as I’ve literally waited until the last week of the season to take my vacation.

The events kicked off on Saturday, with a stop in Sea Isle City, N.J. for my family’s 10th annual memorial fishing trip, where we honored two wonderful uncles who have passed on.

imageLater, we headed south, almost to New Jersey’s tip, where we’ll spend the next week. September is a great month at the Jersey Shore, and this stunning sunset is a perfect reminder.

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My plans for the rest of the week? Not to have any plans, of course, although I will take advantage of my Wildwood Crest location and answer the age old question, which is the best boardwalk pizza: Mack’s or Sam’s?

Until then, I’m on vacation…