‘Clear History,’ Larry David and pals
Think 'Curb Your Enthusiasm' plus some in this funny HBO film
August 7, 2013
In his HBO comedy series “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” Larry David played a fictionalized version of himself: a socially inept curmudgeon who has acquired huge wealth. In the HBO film “Clear History,” David plays a socially inept curmudgeon who has blown huge wealth.
It takes more than a reversal of fortune to make David change type. Although the movie is more elaborately plotted than the typical “Curb” episode, its best moments are awkward confrontations and misunderstandings that would fit nicely in the series, even if they’re slightly broader and slightly funnier than the average on “Curb.” The conventional but clever plot is a bonus.
Premiering this Saturday, Aug. 10, at 9 p.m., “Clear History” begins in 2003. Nathan Flomm (David) is a long-haired, bearded marketing executive at a start-up electric-car company led by Will Haney (Jon Hamm). After he and Hamm disagree over the proposed name of the car — the Howard — Nathan agrees to cash in his 10 percent share and leave the company. That share soon turns out to be worth nearly $1 billion, and Nathan becomes a national joke.
Ten years later, Nathan, now divorced, bald and beardless, has changed his name to Rolly DaVore and is living anonymously on the Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard. When Haney and his wife, Rhonda (Kate Hudson), move into a huge new mansion on the island, Rolly is threatened with exposure, but he also sees an opportunity to get revenge.
Though the story moves along efficiently, the movie takes time to allow David — who wrote the script with Alec Berg, David Mandel and Jeff Schaffer, all veterans of “Seinfeld” and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” — to indulge in his trademark obsessing. Nathan’s differences with Haney also include his desire to include a “pee flap” in the car. Haney is also miffed because rather than complimenting him on his son, Nathan keeps asking the boy’s nanny, who has an elaborate hairstyle, how often she shampoos.
There are also extended riffs on the advantages of placing outlets at eye level and what it means when a member of the opposite sex wipes a smudge off your face.
A running joke concerns the return to Martha’s Vineyard of the band Chicago, whose old hits are featured on the soundtrack. Rolly’s friends tell him that it’s rumored that the last time Chicago came to the island, his ex-girlfriend, Wendy (Amy Ryan), gave more than one band member oral sex.
“It’s a fact,” says a working guy named Joe Stumpo (Michael Keaton). “My sister was there. She blew them too.”
“How is Roberta doing?” asks Rolly’s friend Frank (Danny McBride).
“She’s real good,” says Stumpo.
“That’s great,” says Frank.
From that point on, the rumor keeps popping up in ingenious ways, and every time a Chicago song is played, we smile.
The director, Greg Mottola, maintains a relaxed but precise comic rhythm. None of the actors have to work too hard, and their enjoyment of what seems to have been a fun shoot is contagious.
One comic misfire is due to bad timing. A criminal named Tibor (the uncredited Liev Schreiber) is said to be Chechen, stirring up unfortunate memories of the Boston Marathon bombing.
If there was any lesson in “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” it was not only that money can’t buy happiness but that a lot of money can allow you to be unhappy full time. “Clear History” hilariously suggests you don’t even need money.