(TODAY'S GUEST: Re-joining us here at Jaman HQ is Rohan Morbey, who blogs at Stop Thinking For Yourself UK. Rohan has graciously allowed us to post his enthusiastic review of Larry David's Clear History. We're always happy to welcome Rohan to Jaman HQ, and hope you will follow him on Twitter.)
For fans of HBO’s single camera series Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David’s new film Clear History is a must-see comedy if for no other reason than it plays out like a feature length version of his hit show. As a massive fan of Curb, Clear History won me over in the first few minutes and never let up, and it's one of the best comedy films I’ve seen in recent years.
The statement above may sound like an exaggeration, but modern comedies seldom work for me and the 30 minute laughter fix provided by the best sitcoms often works with a far greater success rate. Clear History essentially offers Larry David playing the same character from Curb but with a different name; the same formula is deployed and it delivers the goods.
I think the reason Clear History works so well is the improvised dialogue and delivery which Larry David perfected in Curb, for this film seems to have taken the same approach; just give the actors the bare outline of a scene and allow them to fill in the rest. The ensemble cast is excellent, with Jon Hamm, Kate Hudson, Amy Ryan, Eva Mendes, Michael Keaton, Bill Hader, Danny McBride, Liev Schreiber, Philip Baker Hall, and Curb regular J.B Smoove all showing they have the comic nuances to work in a Larry David comedy. Also, in classic Curb tradition, the romance between Larry and Kate Hudson plays out in a way you would not expect from any other comedy; their final scene is hilarious.
If the film has any drawbacks it is due to the unmistakable comparisons to Curb and the feeling like Larry David and his writing team could have come up with something more to stretch their talents. Just why Larry’s character is so augmentative, brash, and unsubtle is never fleshed out, and we’re supposed to take it at face value that it is just Larry being Larry under a different name. However, in his show it’s clear he’s playing an exaggerated version of himself, so why not just make Curb: The Movie, especially as this was made by HBO who have the rights to make it? Also, at 100 minutes the storyline does begin to show signs of fatigue, as if it had to pad out a 60 minute idea into a feature length story.
Despite these shortcomings, Clear History remains a genuinely funny film, made all the better for the great supporting cast Larry David was able to bring onboard. Unlike most modern comedies, it doesn’t rely on pop culture references, gross-out humour, or gratuitous scenes of actors playing ‘against type’ to get the laughs, but relies on good writing, great comedic understanding, and a winning formula from one of America’s most gifted comedy writers. This is a perfect distraction until Larry decides to film Curb season 9.