Archives in the Movies: Enough Said
Updated: Feb 8
Enough Said (2013) is a perfectly fine romantic dramedy. It's not my genre of choice, but I absolutely see the appeal. Written and directed by Nicole Holofcener, Enough Said centers on the budding relationship between Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and Albert (the late James Gandolfini), two divorcees on the cusp of experiencing empty nest syndrome as their daughters go off to college. Eva, a masseuse, unknowingly takes on a new client, Marianne (Catherine Keener), who she later discovers is Albert's ex-wife and begins to absorb her criticisms of Albert into their relationship. Awkward hilarity and drama ensue.
And I do mean awkward. While the movie obviously had a script, the actors were encouraged to improvise, which makes for more realistic and comfortable performances between Louis-Dreyfus and Gandolfini. They feel like real people navigating a new relationship with their baggage always on the periphery. There are other times, however, where the improvisational whims and the scripted lines get a little too cringe, making the movie hard to watch, at least for me. Your mileage may vary on how much awkward you can tolerate. Mine is a low threshold.
Thankfully, Gandolfini portrays one of the better examples of an archivist in modern media. Personality wise, he's charming, funny, very laid back, but overall a man comfortable with himself even if he is a bit of a self-proclaimed slob. He likes his job and he's ostensibly good at it, though the movie is a bit lacking on those details. Mostly the movie is more concerned with presenting Albert as a nice, but flawed man with just enough little quirks and issues to make Eva question the longevity of their relationship.
Albert works for the American Library of Cultural History (ALCH) in Los Angeles, which he clarifies as a film and television library. When Eva visits his place of work, we're treated to a location shot (if anyone knows where they filmed the archives portion, please let me know) complete with full stacks of clamshell boxes, banker's boxes, and and a small library of shooting scripts. Albert shows Eva the viewing room, introduces her to his co-worker in the office where they most likely process collections for the library, and they have a quick kiss in the stacks.
The movie never specifies Albert's role at ALCH, but given the list of duties he provides to Eva (digitizing and transference of digital copies, creating finding aids, etc.), he's clearly an archivist. It was in this scene where I think I related to Albert the most. Eva, after commenting how in awe she is of the archival back-of-house, asks what Albert does, to which he replies, "Do you really want to know?"
It's a question every archivist asks at some point when another person enquires about our work. It's a defense mechanism, a reaction to numerous scenarios where we've willing talked our throats raw about our job only to be met with blank stares and awkward silence. As an archivist, I'm conditioned to think people won't find my work interesting enough in polite conversation so hearing Albert resort to self-deprecation and dismissive shrugs of his own value and work ethic definitely resonated.
The film's age shows, however, in its attitude toward modern television. Prior to the visit to the archives, Albert, Eva, and Eva's daughter's best friend are having breakfast and quizzing Albert on television programs of the past, staring at the man in silent fascination that he remembers times and dates with only a slight delay in recall. Because NERD! Cut to the archives and Albert running off his list of duties - the same scene where he questions the sincerity of her interest - and he says:
"I make sure things are transferred to digital, properly. I make sure they're logged in properly. I write little blurbs so if anyone under the age of 50 ever wants to put down their phone and come in here and watch something original and brilliant they can find what they're looking for."
So what I'm hearing is that Albert is a bit of a television snob! There's nothing wrong with that, everyone has their preference of media they enjoy, but I like how it's woven into his character with some subtlety. It goes with the middle-aged boomers in the real world vibe of the movie, but it's also significant to Albert's personality and arc. He's a man who tries to preserve the past, who dwells in it to some degree, and it's reflected in his job and how he views the changing and evolving world that might be moving too fast for him. There's comfort in the old and familiar for Albert. Any suggestions of change are met with resistance and a sarcastic comment. It's not the healthiest attitude, for sure, but it's something we all do. It's almost like he's a real person or something! I can't say there are a lot of properties that have ever given an archivist this level of depth, so bask in it while it's here.
Still, I wish we'd gotten to see Albert do some actual archiving. At least tell me where the digital transfers are going! It's too vague, I need details, movie! Details! Your romantic comedy is getting in the way of my need for a workplace docudrama!