Director – Michael Apted, Screenplay – Nicholas Kazan, Producers – Rob Cowan & Irwin Winkler, Photography – Rogier Stoffers, Music – David Arnold, Special Effects Supervisor – Richard L. Thompson, Production Design – Doug Kraner. Production Company – Columbia
Jennifer Lopez (Slim), Billy Campbell (Mitch Hiller), Tessa Allen (Gracie Hiller), Juliette Lewis (Ginny), Noah Wyle (Robbie), Dan Futterman (Joe), Fred Ward (Jupiter), Bill Cobbs (James Toller), Bruce A. Young (Instructor), Christopher Maher (Phil), Janet Carroll (Mrs Hiller)
The waitress Slim marries wealthy construction firm manager Mitch Hiller. After she gives birth to a daughter Gracie, Slim discovers that Mitch is seeing other women. When she confronts Mitch, he beats her and then starts to control everything she does, spying on her wherever she goes. She decides to leave. However, after she does so, he traces her and sends hired thugs to harass her friends, telling her that if he is unable to have her he will make sure nobody else can. She adopts a false name and hides across the country but he continues to trace her. Eventually, she decides that the only way to ever be free is to train herself how to fight and to then return and kill Mitch.
I must admit that I had not paid much attention to Enough prior to its release. What did catch one’s attention though was the trailer and tv promos that featured the prominent line “You have a divine animal right to defend your own life and the life of your offspring,” which came overlaid against images of Jennifer Lopez in kickboxing training. It’s a line that could be a strong contender for some future Golden Turkey Award for the most pretentiously ludicrous line of promotional dialogue in a film. It is not just that Jennifer Lopez is being told she has a mere right to defend her own life and that of her child, but that she has ‘a divine animal right’ to do so, whatever that may mean. It sort of suggests a reworking of the Julia Roberts abused wife thriller Sleeping With the Enemy (1991) that has somehow inhaled a little too much New Age aromatherapy and started channelling Native American totem animal mysticism.
Enough is directed by Michael Apted. The British-born Apted is normally a respectable director of serious dramas like Coal Miner’s Daughter (1981), Gorillas in the Mist: The Story of Dian Fossey (1988) and Nell (1994) and thrillers like Gorky Park (1983), Blink (1994), Extreme Measures (1996), Enigma (2001), the best James Bond film up until the Daniel Craig era, The World is Not Enough (1999), and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010).
Apted offers up a captivating first scene in Enough. Subtitled ‘How They Met’, Apted has Jennifer Lopez being wooed by Noah Wyle, before Billy Campbell appears and accuses him of having made a bet with his friend to bed her. The scene certainly gets one’s attention and gives the impression the film is going to be much better than its trailer. However, Enough rapidly goes downhill from there. The script is one cliche from beginning to ending and Michael Apted’s suspense-generating tactics – car chases, surprise appearances of pursuers inside the house – are frustratingly hackneyed.
Enough stars Jennifer Lopez. Jennifer Lopez started as an actress – and a promising one too – see Steven Soderbergh’s Out of Sight (1998) – before, in recent years, being manufactured as a Latin American singing sensation, taking the appellation J-Lo and having enormous crossover success, before tabloid over-exposure eventually killed her acting career. In truth, Enough should not have been made as a star vehicle for Jennifer Lopez. Such a star treatment wrings out everything that might have made an interesting film. You are never less than certain that Enough is a Jennifer Lopez star vehicle, rather than it is ever a thriller about wife abuse. For one, the impoverishment of Jennifer Lopez’s circumstances is constantly being upstaged by the glamour of her presence. The first thing we see her doing after a car chase is not trembling in fear but applying her lipstick; her planning of an operation to kill her husband is conducted while she is having her nails done in a beauty parlour. Even the beatings by her husband never amount to anything more than a couple of punches and an inch-long cut marring her multi-million dollar looks. The film’s ever-so cautious desire not to deface Jennifer Lopez’s features surely does a disservice to a serious subject, one where women in similar abusive situations end up being beaten so badly they have bones broken and their faces misshapen with bruises. The film pays the merest of lip-service to the reality of her plight – there is a single brief scene where she ends up in a shelter. Even a shot of her hanging her head in despair at the situation is upstaged by Michael Apted having to turn it into a picture postcard shot of San Francisco.
A far more interesting story might have emerged if the film had eschewed the glamour treatment and A-budget flourish, if Slim were a character that did not have convenient plot flourishes like being able to hit up her illegitimate billionaire father Fred Ward for money or the resourcefulness to turn her house into a booby-trap and stash cars filled with extra sets of clothes all over the place, if she were simply an ordinary person trying to flee a nightmare situation. (Stephen King’s novel Rose Madder (1995) was a much better, more convincing telling of this sort of story). While Jennifer Lopez is a competent actress (better than most tabloid headlines credit her for), there is no journey to her performance. She starts out reasonably sure of herself and by the time she has travelled to arrive at someone who takes kickboxing lessons and is ready to return to kill her husband, she is not substantially any different from the person we met at the start of the film – there is no sense of a person moving from mousy nobody to strong and self-assertive. Enough would have been much more interesting if it had starred somebody like Jennifer Lopez’s co-star, the great and underrated Juliette Lewis. She is someone you could convincingly believe going from mousy co-dependent nobody to tough and self-assured.
Enough is a film that feels like it was written by a women’s self-defence course instructor. The man is painted as overwhelmingly evil – he not only beats and stalks her and has a seeming army of thugs to do his bidding, he is also a womaniser and compulsively unfaithful and expects her to understand and accept this, as though all of these things were merely shades of one continuum. The film gets into the vigilante spirit of it all, reiterating the cliches that the law is lumbering and unsympathetic to complainants in abuse situations, that restraining orders are not worth the paper they are written on, that the bail system is far too liberal and that the only recourse is for someone to take the law into their own hands. When it comes down to it, Enough is only a cod-feminist variation on the right wing libertarianism of films like Dirty Harry (1971) and Death Wish (1974) and their view that law enforcement is far too liberal and weak-kneed, that justice is best taken into one’s own hands and that criminals are vermin that deserve no better than to be exterminated. Despite what Enough might think in its claim that “self-defence is not murder”, what it actually shows in great detail – the heroine taking self-defence lessons, breaking into her husband’s house with metal detectors and cellphone-blocking devices, hiding his guns and planting evidence – the climax is more than clearly an act of premeditated murder at law not one of self-defence.
Enough talks the tough talk, but when it comes down to the issue of standing up in self-defence, it has a crucial failure of moral courage. While it has its heroine proudly state that “self-defence is not murder,” it fails to ever go the promised extent of having her kill her abusive husband. Instead, at the crucial climactic point of going to batter his brains in with a metal tray, she cannot go through with it and breaks down in tears to her friend on the phone. Then, in one of the worst cliches in the book, he gets back up from the dead and she kills him by defending herself from the surprise attack. That is not taking justice into one’s own hands, it is simply Hollywood-sanctioned justice, the sort that only allows the hero(ine) to kill another person in the course of attempting to defend themselves.
For all that one finds Enough‘s libertarian call for vigilante justice repugnant, what is worse is its failure to have courage in its convictions at the crucial moment. For all its call to fight back and aggressively take control of the situation, it is something that at the last moment has moral qualms and cannot go through with it. Personally, I think one is better off going and watching the likes of Day of the Woman/I Spit on Your Grave (1978), Dirty Weekend (1992) or Baise-Moi (2000) again – they are at least films that have the courage of its vigilante convictions and no qualms about glamourising or moralizing their way out of the situation.