Larry David

Clear History (2013, Greg Mottola)

Besides J.B. Smoove, Clear History does not reunite Larry David with any of his “Curb Your Enthusiasm” costars. David and Smoove have their fantastic chemistry and it’s a little strange not to see them hanging out in the film. Instead, David hangs out with Danny McBride, who probably gives the film’s must mundane performance. He’s fine… he just doesn’t get any of the laugh lines.

The first third of Clear sets the scene. In an alternate reality where the electric car catches on like hotcakes, David’s character gives up a stake in the company. Destitute, he creates a new life in Martha’s Vineyard–unlikely location maybe, but it’s very pretty scenery. Everything goes well until Jon Hamm–as David’s former boss–arrives on the island.

Antics ensue. With a relaxed plotting structure, Clear feels a lot like three episodes of a TV show strung together. David and his co-writers, Alec Berg, David Mandel and Jeff Schaffer, do put in a lot of subplots, but they’re all for joke payoff throughout. Heck, they even miss one involving Liev Schreiber, which is too bad. He’s hilarious.

Great work from Hamm, Kate Hudson and especially Michael Keaton. Keaton gets to do his wacky thing as a local mad at all the changes to the Vineyard. Very funny. Nice smaller turns from Eva Mendes and Amy Ryan. It’s perfectly cast and performed, it’s just slight.

Greg Mottola’s directorial fingerprints are invisible. Besides transition shots, he just lets the actors act.

Clear’s pleasantly mediocre.



Directed by Greg Mottola; written by Larry David, Alec Berg, David Mandel and Jeff Schaffer; director of photography, Jim Denault; edited by Steven Rausch; music by Ludovic Bource; production designer, Sarah Knowles; produced by Monica Levinson, David, Berg, Mandel and Schaffer; aired by Home Box Office.

Starring Larry David (Rolly), Danny McBride (Frank), Kate Hudson (Rhonda), Jon Hamm (Will Haney), Michael Keaton (Joe Stumpo), Bill Hader (Rags), J.B. Smoove (Jaspar), Eva Mendes (Jennifer), Amy Ryan (Wendy), Philip Baker Hall (McKenzie) and Liev Schreiber (Tibor).

Sour Grapes (1998, Larry David)

Sour Grapes has its moments, unfortunately all the funny ones belong to Orlando Jones. Jones is one of the peripheral characters, maybe the only successful peripheral character in the film actually. As a precursor to David’s far more successful “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” Grapes shows how necessary a proper delivery method is for David’s humor. Here, with Steven Weber and Craig Bierko both essentially playing variations on the David genial misanthrope–Weber to a lesser degree, but Bierko is playing George Costanza–it’s clear something isn’t working. (Weber’s excellent. He should do more movies).

What David doesn’t have in Grapes is any grounding in reality. The only person with any semblance of grounding is Bierko’s wife, played by Robyn Peterman, and she disappears for long stretches of the running time. The film only runs ninety minutes, which just furthers the feeling it’s an elongated sitcom.

Oddly, had David really stretched it out, maybe turned it into a spoof of a mini-series, Grapes would have been a far greater success. While he introduces these characters with great humor potential, they never have time to do anything. Karen Sillas, for example, shows signs of giving a good performance, but her character is never interesting. She’s not developed enough to be funny.

A lot could have been resolved with a stronger director. David’s composition is adequate, but he doesn’t bring any ingenuity to it. Grapes‘s narrative structure is more like an early thirties comedy than anything modern–the morality play for laughs–and he can’t properly present it.



Written and directed by Larry David; director of photography, Victor Hammer; edited by Priscilla Nedd-Friendly; production designer, Charles Rosen; produced by Laurie Lennard; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Steven Weber (Evan Maxwell), Craig Bierko (Richie Maxwell), Viola Harris (Selma Maxwell), Karen Sillas (Joan), Robyn Peterman (Roberta), Matt Keeslar (Danny Pepper), Jennifer Leigh Warren (Millie), Orlando Jones (Digby), John Toles-Bey (Lee), Deidre Lovejoy (Nurse Wells), Richard Gant (Det. Crouch), Philip Baker Hall (Mr. Bell) and Kristin Davis (Riggs).

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