Why James Gandolfini's 'Enough Said' Is Building Awards Momentum (Analysis)

Virtually every awards conversation these days starts with Fox Searchlight's 12 Years a Slave, the presumptive best picture Oscar front-runner.

But it's worth a look at another Searchlight film that went into limited release two weeks ago and has quickly become an Oscar and Golden Globe contender in its own right: Nicole Holofcener's Enough Said, a romantic-comedy about a divorced woman (Emmy-winner Julia Louis-Dreyfus) who learns that the man she likes (the late James Gandolfini) is the ex-husband of her new friend (Oscar-nominee Catherine Keener).

The film registered a 94 percent critical approval rating on RottenTomatoes.com and scored a very healthy per-screen average last weekend, $9,317 on 227 screens -- second only to Muscle Shoals, which debuted on a single screen to $13,091.

THR's Review: 'Enough Said'

Enough Said, which premiered at last month's Toronto Film Festival, is a comedy, providing a rare ray of light in an unusually dark field of contenders this year. That may or may not help it with the Academy, which has historically shied away from the genre. But it will play very much to its advantage with the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which determines the Golden Globes' nominees and winners. At the Globes, there are drama and musical or comedy categories for best picture, best actor and best actress. Look for Enough Said to register noms in each, and maybe even in best screenplay, for which dramas, musicals and comedies all compete.

After all, its Globes competition this year isn't all that great:

  • The Weinstein Co.'s August: Osage County, John Wells' star-studded dramedy, should bag a best actress nom for Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, if she is submitted as a lead at the Globes, and perhaps supporting noms for Chris Cooper and Margo Martindale...
  • CBS Films' Inside Llewyn Davis, which qualifies because of its musical elements, looks like a good bet to bag a best actor nom for star Oscar Isaac and screenplay nom for brothers Ethan Coen and Joel Coen...
  • Paramount's Nebraska, for which Bruce Dern is a likely best actor nominee and Bob Nelson is a screenplay possibility...
  • IFC Films' Frances Ha, which could bring co-writer and star Greta Gerwig her first major awards recognition...
  • And a couple of other Searchlight films, the Sundance turned summer indie hit The Way, Way Back and the forthcoming musical Black Nativity (the Globes love their musicals), starring Forest Whitaker, Jennifer Hudson, Angela Bassett and Mary J. Blige.

As for Gandolfini, the beloved star of The Sopranos who died of a heart attack back in June, my hunch is that he will receive a posthumous best supporting actor Oscar ad campaign -- but will probably be entered in the lead actor category at the Globes, since it is so wide open and more prestigious than best supporting actor. Although the Globes generally nominate big stars who can show up at their party -- and although one HFPA member allegedly made an insensitive comment about Gandolfini's Globes prospects being hurt because of his inability to do so -- I bet that the thinness of the lead actor category and general goodwill and sentiment will carry him to a nom.

Searchlight has, sadly, had to tread similar territory before, when Adrienne Shelly, the young writer and director of the 2007 film Waitress, was murdered shortly before the awards season.

Follow Scott on Twitter @ScottFeinberg for additional news and analysis.