Share via Email The sweet, sixtysomething couple in pastel leisurewear are curious about the room next to theirs in this Santa Monica beachfront hotel. There have been a lot of comings and goings all day. Their jaws loosen noticeably and they take a single deferential step backwards.
They might not have seen Louis-Dreyfus as Selina Meyer , the vice-president grappling with her own political impotence in Armando Iannucci's profane sitcom Veep , for which she has won a brace of Emmy bookends.
And her new film, the warm, wise romantic comedy Enough Said , has only just opened. But don't underestimate the enduring voodoo power of her nine years on the most masterful and abrasive sitcom ever made: For many millions of people particularly in America, where the phrase "cultural phenomenon" is too measly to describe the show's reach she will for ever be Elaine Benes , the most achingly desperate of the Seinfeld quartet. I smile too, recalling some of the lines that Louis-Dreyfus delivers in the new series of Veep: Enough Said is gentler than Veep, but no less probing in its own way.
Louis-Dreyfus plays Eva, a massage therapist and single mother bracing herself for her daughter's imminent move to university. In her discombobulated state, she slides into a tentative romance with a hulking TV archivist the late James Gandolfini.
The movie feels rooted in the specific epiphanies of middle age. She lounges on the mushroom-coloured sofa, propping herself up on one elbow in a loose white blouse patterned with flowers. But it's pertinent to this woman at this moment. She's facing this possible vast landscape of loneliness and it's so paralysing that it fuels some bad decision-making and blurs lots of her boundary issues.
Rex Features In Seinfeld's fourth series, Elaine was described as "a pretty woman, you know — kinda short, big wall of hair, face like a frying pan.
At 52, she's still crisply pretty, but her hair is straight and dark, rather than high and frizzy. And I don't spot in her expression that devastating sourness with which Elaine could drop a man at 40 paces.
But it takes a while to get used to her habit of stopping dead when she has finished a thought, with none of the space-filling blather to which some of us are prone. Her comic style is precise and low-fat. So, too, is her conversation. She starred in another project recently about a similar subject to Enough Said — Picture Paris , a short film by her husband, Brad Hall, whom she met at university. The thematic overlap is a coincidence, she insists, though it does pertain to her circumstances.
The elder of the two sons she has with Hall is currently at university. It undid us in a big way that I wasn't prepared for — but also, I kind of was. It's just more jarring than you expect. The reality of them leaving is hard to digest emotionally. How is it working out for Louis-Dreyfus? It's funny because I don't think of myself as middle-aged. In my mind, I'm, like, mids. I also really like being here now and having all these experiences behind me.
I find it very freeing. When you're younger you're putting yourself out there in a way you think you should be seen. Then as you get older you're like: His performance is immensely delicate. We had a good chemistry from the get-go. He's an amazing actor. He really is a gentle giant. It's a tragedy that he isn't. I just feel overcome with gratitude that I got to work with him.
For a long time after, whenever I saw him I'd always call out: Maybe he'd get a kick out of it I was young and inexperienced and I went in with no idea of how to navigate that universe, which was not very female-friendly. That's where Larry lives: It's where most comedy comes from. Discomfort is a very underrated feeling. It seems incredible now that a woman in a prime-time s network sitcom was permitted to be as funny and venal as her male co-stars. Elaine broke every taboo. She was anti-religion, pro-abortion and an appalling dancer.
Sexually she was unapologetically ravenous, even undiscerning; in one episode, a period of enforced celibacy rendered her temporarily insensible.
She enjoyed her promiscuity so that the women in Sex and the City and Girls could later do likewise. For Louis-Dreyfus, the most significant advance occurred during The Contest , an episode in which the main characters attempt to abstain from self-abuse.
Guys talking about masturbation was acceptable. But when a woman enters that dialogue, it's a whole different matter. I felt lucky to be a part of that. To me, it was the show that was radical rather than Elaine.
It was an anti-sitcom sitcom. That stuff fascinates her — how an extra beat of time can nail a joke or kill it. Why that word should go in that place in the sentence, or when you need to break the sentence. Matt Walsh, who plays Mike in Veep, says she can find the extra jokes on the way to the joke, and that's true.
It's almost an academic interest, or like a musician knowing theory. But it was Veep , currently preparing for a third series, that provided her with the first part forceful and complex enough to rival Elaine. As Selina, she strides purposefully, arms pumping in front of her like pistons; she dishes out insults and invective the way other people pass around breath-mints.
I express concern that Selina hasn't yet enjoyed enough moments of triumph: Triumph is great because where do you go from there? That's good for comedy. It's like this comedic five-octave range. She's a great, great physical comedian but she can also bring it down to this laser-surgery level.
Her line was 'I'm so sorry' and the stage direction in brackets was 'trying not to smile'. It's this really small performance, but so precise it gets a huge belly laugh. And she gave us so many options to choose from in the edit, each one different by just a hair. But the intervening decades between Seinfeld and Veep haven't stifled her famous tendency to corpse during filming. There was even an entire Seinfeld episode The Pez Dispenser devoted to Elaine's inability to suppress her laughter.
Very soon that chuckle builds to a laugh, and from there to a mildly disconcerting hyuk-hyuk-hyuk. She's cracking up over the idea of cracking up. It means I'm enjoying the movie or TV show I'm making.
I'm its greatest fan! You really gotta spin it right, man, because otherwise it's gonna make me sound like such an asshole. Veep series two is on Sky Atlantic.