In theaters Wednesday, Sept. 18.
***1/2 (out of four stars)
The wait for an utterly delightful, grown-up romantic comedy is over.
In a rare-and-welcome big-screen appearance, Julia Louis-Dreyfus is Eva, a neurotic single mom who's dating Albert, a fellow divorcé (James Gandolfini). Yes, Eva had some initial reservations -- he could stand to lose a few pounds, she confides to her new friend, Marianne (Catherine Keener). She didn't even want to kiss him at first. But now she thinks he's sexy. Definitely a keeper. Little does Eva know that Albert is also Marianne's ex-husband. And let's just say that some of the marital wounds are still raw.
Writer-director Nicole Holofcener (Friends with Money, Please Give) has a knack for crafting observational dialogue, and this outing is no exception. Indeed, the couple hones their bond in a witty, sweet manner that never smacks of sitcom-y artifice. (Who here hasn't griped about the state of reality TV or vented about the loud music piping through a crowded restaurant during a date?). When Eva starts picking apart Albert's flaws, it's in a way that's frustrating to watch -- yet, if we're all being honest, completely relatable.
Performances are solid all around, but of course the big story here is the great Gandolfini. Though not an obvious leading man, he endears with his goofy charm and vulnerability. (So sensitive is Albert of his weight, he tentatively asks Eva if she's able to breathe while they're in bed.) Sporting a messy beard and a wardrobe of T-shirts and jeans, Albert doesn’t even physically resemble Tony Soprano. But the most notable difference between the two characters is the size of Albert's heart. What a lovely epitaph.