Will Nicole Holofcener sneak into Oscar screenplay race for ‘Enough Said’?

Nicole Holofcener has directed five films, all liked by critics, but none have made it to the Oscars. Her latest, “Enough Said,” may be the best opportunity yet for one of her movies to break through, but can she herself sneak into the race for Best Original Screenplay?

Enough Said” is her best-reviewed film, with 96% freshness on Rotten Tomatoes and a 79 score on MetaCritic. It’s also her biggest moneymaker, with more than $17 million in box office receipts, outdoing her previous best, “Friends with Money,” which made $13 million in the US. But those aren’t the main reasons it has gotten extra attention from the industry.

It’s the death of star James Gandolfini that has put the film in the spotlight. The actor passed away suddenly last June at age 51, and “Enough Said” is one of his last film roles. Because it was also a successful creative departure for him – the erstwhile Tony Soprano plays a sensitive TV archivist – he has received posthumous nominations from the SAG Awards, Critics’ Choice Awards, Independent Spirit Awards, and various regional critics groups, winning in Boston. Now he has a chance for his first and probably only Oscar nomination.

But might his writer-director join him when Oscar nominations are announced?

It’s sad that it has taken Gandolfini’s death to bring greater attention to Holofcener. I think she’s one of the best filmmakers currently working and one of the few who consistently tells great stories about women. She has directed actresses Jennifer Aniston (“Friends with Money”), Emily Mortimer (“Lovely & Amazing”), and now Julia Louis-Dreyfus (“Enough Said”) to some of their best performances, and her ongoing collaboration with Catherine Keener, who has been in all of her films, ranks up there with Scorsese and DiCaprio, though this pair’s output is much more low-key.

The film is probably a nonstarter for Best Picture, and Holofcener doesn’t have much of a chance for Best Director, but there’s still hope for her in the Original Screenplay category. Because there are 10 writing nominees every year – five original and five adapted – these are the categories where we often see films recognized even if there’s little or no support for them anywhere else. The screenplay races have been especially good to character-driven independent films.

In just the last 10 years, “Moonrise Kingdom” (2012), “Margin Call” (2011), “Another Year” (2010), “In Bruges” (2008), “Happy Go-Lucky” (2008), “Lars and the Real Girl” (2007), “The Squid and the Whale” (2005), and “Dirty Pretty Things” (2003) earned nominations for Best Original Screenplay without support in any other categories – all acclaimed indies, and most of them comedies, just like “Enough Said.”

If only “Enough Said” were an adapted screenplay. As luck would have it there’s more wiggle room in that category this year, and “Enough Said” probably could have bumped off one of the five contenders currently leading our predictions center: maybe the polarizing “The Wolf of Wall Street,” or the more director-driven “Captain Phillips.”

In Original Screenplay, where it has to fight a glut of Best Picture hopefuls, “Enough Said” ranks eighth in our combined odds. Can it beat those odds? I’ll have my fingers crossed.

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