James Gandolfini did not receive an Oscar nomination, despite receiving a posthumous SAG nomination, for portraying Albert in Enough Said.
The late James Gandolfini plays the other divorcee Albert, and although he has the largest male role in the film I would not put him in lead. Where Daniel Bruhl shared importance and perspective as Niki Lauda in Rush, Gandolfini's character never is given any perspective and he does not have a single scene that is not through Dreyfus's view so I can pretty easily put him in supporting. Anyway Gandolfini's Albert meets Eva at a part where they begin dating each other, although both being people who have been around for quite awhile they proceed with the whole thing in a fairly casual and particularly understated fashion. This is definitely not the usual romantic comedy style romance.
Gandolfini, who is probably best known for his tough guy roles, plays a particularly average guy here. Part of the film really is about just how average Albert has, and there is not anything that makes him a particularly notable individual. Gandolfini though pretty much goes with this idea, and tries to make Albert just a pretty average guy who has lived a pretty average life. That does not sound like an especially compelling character when you like right at it, but Gandolfini makes the most of it by just realizing fully exactly who Albert is. Gandolfini goes about making Albert interesting by simply being the best Albert he can be. Sure Albert's a normal guy but Gandolfini makes him a very real normal guy.
Gandolfini has an unassuming charm about himself here through just showing that Albert is a pretty gentle sort. Most importantly though he has great chemistry with Julia Louis Dreyfus in the film and you can always believe their relationship in the film. Gandolfini handles himself particularly well in his portrayal of Albert's various little quirks that we discover that he has. The whole idea of the quirks seems primed for Albert to become a wacky character who is more about his quirks than himself. Gandolfini never allows this to happen though making his slightly slovenly behavior completely natural to the man himself. There does not in fact seem anything odd about because Gandolfini shows it to be entirely who Albert is.
Gandolfini is very effective with Dreyfus as they both show the certain awkwardness of their whole situation with the underlying affection that slowly grows between the two. They honestly create a quiet romance that builds up to be quite winning through various small moments, rather than any broad gestures. Gandolfini's performance is enjoyable one to watch because it honestly feels like you are watching someone just be themselves. It is a nice sweet performance, that never feels though he is trying too hard. Albert does have some problems because of his wife and daughter, and Gandolfini is very subtle in showing that these problems press on Albert in the quiet sadness he shows, but never shows him to be a man overwhelmed by his problems.
A major problem arises though when Eva starts becoming critical of Albert because of what she hears about him from his ex-wife. In the scene where she offers endless criticism Gandolfini is great in portraying Albert's reaction. He does not loud or extremely confrontational in the scene. Gandolfini instead is far more moving by conveying the just how disheartened Albert is to hear the exact same things that ruined his original marriage with his wife. Above else Gandolfini's work here is based on sheer honesty, and by that he gives a endearing portrait of a man just making his way through life. This is a very good performance and it is a shame that the academy felt they had to give Jonah Hill and Bradley Cooper their second nominations rather than honor Gandolfini with one.