(US - 2013)
Directed by Greg Mottola. Written by Larry David, Alec Berg, David Mandel, Jeff Schaffer. Cast: Larry David, Jon Hamm, Kate Hudson, Michael Keaton, Danny McBride, Eva Mendes, Amy Ryan, Bill Hader, Philip Baker Hall, Liev Schreiber, J.B. Smoove, Lenny Clarke, Amy Landecker, Patty Ross, Paul Scheer. (Unrated, 97 mins)
Larry David hasn't had the same level of success when he's tried to expand his trademark SEINFELD and CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM comedic stylings to feature-length. He wrote and directed the 1998 dud SOUR GRAPES, an occasionally amusing comedy that felt too sitcom-y and was barely released by Warner Bros. He produced the 2004 Ben Stiller-Jack Black bomb ENVY and had a hand in the script, though he ultimately refused a writing credit. David has worked in a couple of films for others, most notably Woody Allen's WHATEVER WORKS (2009), but over the course of eleven years and eight seasons, he's perfected his craft on CURB, so now he's giving movies another shot with the HBO film CLEAR HISTORY. The story mines similar territory explored in SOUR GRAPES and ENVY: SOUR GRAPES had Craig Bierko borrowing a quarter from cousin Steven Weber to play a 50-cent slot machine, hitting the jackpot, refusing to split the earnings and instead simply giving Weber the 25 cents that he borrowed. ENVY has Stiller passing on a chance to invest in his best friend Black's spray that makes dog feces disappear, only to seethe with jealousy when he sees it become a massive worldwide success.
identical to her office, right down a receptionist and a waiting area in her living room). "Flomm" is one of those names that David just likes the sound of, like "Bob Cobb," which was the name of The Maestro on SEINFELD and was used again on CURB by a character who annoyed Larry by insisting his grandfather Bob Cobb invented the Cobb salad.
EUROTRIP), and fleshed out by some improv from the cast. It's a style that requires some chops, which explains the presence of CURB vets like Smoove and Hall as well as pros like a barely-recognizable Keaton (who brings an almost BEETLEJUICE jolt of manic energy to his role), McBride (who sees a pic of Rolly as Flomm and says "You look like the guy who kidnapped Elizabeth Smart!"), Bill Hader, and Hamm, who's shown on SNL that he's just as adept at comedy as he is serious drama. David isn't much of an actor, and he'd be the first person to admit it (even his performance as misanthropic Boris Yelnikoff in WHATEVER WORKS was more "Larry David" than anything), so it's fortunate that just being essentially himself is enough to get the job done. There's a feeling of familiarity to a lot of CLEAR HISTORY, and as a result, there's nothing it that reaches the heights of SEINFELD or CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM, but for a fan of those shows and the patented David persona, it's pretty damn funny all the same.