"I'm tired of being funny," sighs West L.A. single mom Eva (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) in Nicole Holofcener's "Enough Said," as she lies next to the man she's just had sex with, the will-we-or-won't-we pressure of their early dates finally ebbing. "Me too," he sighs back.
What about Louis-Dreyfus?
"Oh, yeah," she says in her Baltimore hotel after a day on the set of her HBO political comedy "Veep," blowing air between pursed lips to add an unspoken, "Are you kidding?"
"I relate to [that moment] as myself, as you can imagine," she says, "because people expect a certain thing from me. But I relate to her from her as well. She was finding herself at the beginning of a relationship with a man and could let it out. She didn't have to suck it in or be something she wasn't. She was exhausted with that, and she found this man it was OK to be that way with."
Louis-Dreyfus, who won her second consecutive Emmy for playing "Veep's" foul-mouthed second-in-command Selina Meyer this year — and just earned SAG and Globe nominations for the role last week along with a Globes nod for "Enough Said" — isn't wearying of TV comedy, mind you. But until "Veep," a half-hour series with 10-episode seasons, the demanding schedule of a network sitcom left little time for other pursuits.
"The notion of leaving home on a hiatus and going to work out of town — or, frankly, even in town — was just not a possibility," she says. "I couldn't emotionally allow that to happen and physically I had to be close to my kids."
"Enough Said" is Louis-Dreyfus' first onscreen film role since Woody Allen's "Deconstructing Harry" in 1997, and it came to her both as "Veep's" shorter schedule left her with some breathing room and as her children, two sons from her 26-year marriage to producer Brad Hall, were beginning to leave home.
Like Louis-Dreyfus, her character is gearing up to send her child off to school. But unlike her, Eva doesn't have a next step planned. A masseuse who's gotten into the habit of caring for others while neglecting herself, she's panicked by the yawning chasm of unaccounted-for hours that her daughter's absence threatens, which pushes her toward some profoundly unwise decisions involving Albert (James Gandolfini in one of his last roles), the new man in her life, and her client and burgeoning new friend Marianne (Catherine Keener), who turns out to be Albert's ex-wife.
The empty-nest aspect of Eva's life hit close to home for Louis-Dreyfus, but that wasn't the only part that resonated. "Fear of loneliness, and therefore fear of risk — I hope I haven't made those mistakes, but I've made plenty of mistakes in my life," she says. "As an actor, you have to bare your soul even if it's a big, broad farce. But with this movie, it was exceptionally personal and pretty close to the bone."
For Gandolfini, who died in June, the role of a shy TV archivist was also close to home. "He was very close to who Albert was," Louis-Dreyfus recalls. "Talk about baring your soul. I think this was. He was self-effacing and not very comfortable, not sure he was right for the part. He questioned it a lot. 'Why is a guy like me getting the girl?' He was so insecure about it, which made him, in my mind, that much more lovable, because it was so endearing to see him be so without airs about himself."
For Louis-Dreyfus, the insecurity came not with whether she was right for the role — "I read the script and I understood exactly what I needed to do," she says — but with executing the tricky balance of comedy and drama Holofcener's films maintain. "The tone of the film was what separated it out from anything I'd ever done before," she says. "There is a rawness which makes things slightly uncomfortable all the time. I'm glad people liked it, or I would have felt embarrassed."