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Finally Above the Title

The late James Gandofini and Julia Louis-Dreyfus in "Enough Said."

Julia Louis-Dreyfus makes her movie starring debut in Enough Said

The irony whacks you in the head like a baseball bat. Enough Said is a funny and engaging movie offering strong parts for three female stars—Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Catherine Keener, and Toni Collette—written and directed by a woman, Nicole Holofcener. Yet talk about it invariably centers on the film’s lone male co-star.

Ironic but not surprising, given that the actor is the late James Gandolfini in a film shot just before his unexpected death earlier this year. His performance is getting even more attention because it’s such a change of pace, at least for viewers who have only seen him as Tony Soprano or other similar tough-guy roles.

Recalling her co-star during a recent Toronto press junket for Enough Said, Julia Louis-Dreyfus says that his character of Albert, a librarian at a TV museum who unexpectedly becomes her lover, was very close to the real Gandolfini.

“He’s one of the greatest actors of all time,” she says, “he’s in that league. And this part of Albert, this dear thoughtful earnest self-effacing man, is very close to who James was. Absolutely, he was a gentle giant as a person.

“He felt very undeserving of the role. He kept questioning, ‘Why am I playing this part? I don’t play the guy who gets the girl! Did you feel like calling Clooney to get him into this?’ Which is what made him even more perfect for the part.”

Of course, actors don’t work in a vacuum, and the chemistry between Louis-Dreyfus and Gandolfini is what powers the film. Surprisingly, it’s the first starring role for the actress who recently won her second Emmy for the HBO comedy Veep.

So why so late, I ask her? “Well, a couple of reasons. For many many years I was doing different TV series that were time-consuming. I had my two kids during the run of Seinfeld. And the idea of going off on my hiatus to make a film was emotionally untenable for me, with the kids. So I didn’t. Much to my agent’s chagrin. Now I’m doing Veep, which is only 10 episodes a year, I have one son in college, another one at home still, thank god, so my schedule opened up. And then of course there was this great script.”

Louis-Dreyfus is a longtime fan of Nicole Holofcener, writer-director of such urban comedies as Lovely and Amazing, Friends with Money, and Please Give. “Her voice, which is a very character driven, quirky, raw, authentic, small about big things kind of voice—I love it, that speaks to me. She’s not derivative. And her work is kind—it’s about understanding people, [looking at] flawed people with kind eyes, and I love that.”

Her character, Eva, a divorced masseuse, is facing empty nest syndrome as her only daughter prepares to leave for college, a life step that Louis-Dreyfus identified with. “This part of a parent’s life is very much on my mind, I’ve lived it recently with my older son going off to college. Not only that moment, but understanding how the dread of the upcoming departure of her daughter fuels [what] she does. She ‘s hijacked by her own emotional life without even knowing it, that’s what turns her into [a] deceitful person. She means so well, at least that’s how I approached it.

“It’s interesting that she’s a massage therapist, because she’s out there nurturing people, but who’s nurturing her? Sometimes your emotional life gets hold of you and you can’t see anything clearly.”

Louis-Dreyfus’s roots are in improvisational comedy—she was with Chicago’s Second City before getting hired for Saturday Night Live in 1985—a skill she has been calling upon recently both with Veep and here. “A lot [of Enough Said] is on the page, but it was collaborative. I’m an improviser, and Nicole loves that, so I brought it big time. It doesn’t always work, but when it does it’s great if it supports the story and the tone. And she used tons of it.”

What makes her laugh? “Monty Python makes me laugh. Amy Poehler, Mary Tyler Moore, Lucille Ball, Larry Saunders, the Marx Brothers, Teri Garr, [Veep creator Armando Ianucci’s] The Thick of It. Awkward, wincing, shameful moments in human behavior make me laugh really hard.”

Watch the trailer for Enough Said

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