Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) is a masseur in LA, she struggles with her folding masseur table up flights of steps whilst a young customer refuses to help, result frustration.
Enduring the next customer’s long litany of first world non-problems, she zones out but realises this is the way she supports herself and young daughter following her divorce from Jason (Phillip Brock).
Eva is reasonably content, she would like to meet someone, would like the company but has been hurt before and the defensive shields are up. Attending a party with her married constantly sparring friends Will (Ben Falcone) and Sarah (Toni Collette), she meets Marianne (Catherine Keeler).
Marianne is a free spirit, recently divorced again with a young daughter and lives in a house straight out of “Interior design monthly”, all bohemian arty but in a good way. The pair hit it off, maturing into a mutually beneficial platonic friendship.
Despite not finding anyone even remotely attractive at the party, Eva reflects and enters into a relationship with Albert (James Gandolfini). Another divorcee who is not initially what she is looking for, bit overweight, eats his guacamole funny, slightly slobby but someone who improves with knowing.
This is a slight tale about those in the “middle years”, looking for second chances but not too hard, knowing that another knock out emotional blow could finish them forever. You get the sense that each character is shadow boxing, not wanting to commit for fear of getting hurt
The romantic relationships are fragile, slowly and carefully built and delicate enough to collapse following any slight or hurt. The shields are down and damage can easily be inflicted.
The characters are wholly believable, Collette does her usual solid job this time with her native Aussie accent in place. Keener is all dreamy and wafts through life, quite happy to run down her ex, to anyone who will listen. The acting heavy lifting is done by Dreyfus and Gandolfini, the gentle chemistry between the two obvious. Gandolfini is far removed from Tony Soprano, playing a basically good man in difficult circumstances. Dreyfus, by turns spunky, strong yet vulnerable to any mistakes she makes that might affect others.
This is a quiet insightful film that hits many realistic notes for an audience of a certain age, however a younger audience can enjoy the film on a different level. The young daughters fit well into the story, again without resorting to crude stereotypes.
The recent death of Gandolfini adds a tinge of sadness to the film and it is obvious we have lost a natural acting talent. In this film he plays a character one imagines is far closer to the real man, which is a good legacy to leave behind.
A character driven film that aims small but hits the target almost dead centre. A real feel good movie but without the cloying sentiment one might expect.