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STUDIO HBO Films
RUNNING TIME 99 minutes
No special features are included.
Made for fans of Curb Your Enthusiasm, Larry David plays the same complaining, disdainful person, while a cast of memorable characters supports a clever story.
Larry David, Jon Hamm, Danny McBride, Kate Hudson
The comedy follows Nathan Flomm (David), a marketing executive at a start-up Electron Motors, who, after a petty argument with his boss Will Haney (Jon Hamm), gives up his 10 percent of the shares. The company then goes on to make billions of dollars, leaving Nathan publicly humiliated and his life destroyed. Ten years later, he’s changed his name and moved to a small island off the coast of Massachusetts. All is well – until something from his past threatens the new life he’s made for himself.
I’ve enjoyed my fair share of Curb Your Enthusiasm, which is why I decided to review this extended Curb Your Enthusiasm episode. The film is so uncannily similar to Curb in places that it could be genuinely confusing to viewers when they see Larry David pretending to be a marketing executive instead of a comedian. Ok, obviously this is supposed unrelated to Curb Your Enthusiasm, but I would respect it more if they just created some sort of movie franchise acknowledging how similar this is to David’s TV show – something like the National Lampoon movie titles. Curb Your Enthusiasm: Clear History.
David plays Nathan Flomm, the brains behind Edible Arrangements (those people who make fruit bouquets), now owner of a 10% stake in Electron Motors – a company that’s launching an electric car. Despite these differences, David is playing the same character he does on Curb, so I’m assuming this is just his personality and he doesn’t really know how to act. He fixates on the wrong things during conversations, and tries to pretend he’s oblivious to how he’s insulted people, like a scene where he fixates on why Haney’s housekeeper doesn’t wash her braided hair every day – instead of complimenting Haney on his adorable little boy.
The movie starts out with Nathan repeating himself multiple times, which is a lot like what my husband does… maybe he’s watched too many Larry David shows. Then the movie switches to softly spoken dialogue that competes with loud music. Next, there’s a rant about some minor issue and Nathan proposes a solution: in this case it’s electrical outlets at eye level. This is basically the same formula as every Curb Your Enthusiasm episode. Bypassing the fact that they tried to pretend you wouldn’t notice the similarities between the TV show and this movie, it’s still worth watching.
Jon Hamm’s Will Haney, owner of Electron Motors and inventor of the film’s electric car, is the stereotypical late 90s businessman with floppy bangs and a Blackberry clipped to his belt. He’s named his son Howard Roark after the protagonist in Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. After Haney announces that he’s naming the car after his son, Nathan sells his 10% stake because he thinks the name makes the car a guaranteed failure. Of course, the car turns out to be an overwhelming success and Nathan becomes the joke of late-night talk shows because he left before he could profit from his 10% stake.
The reference to The Fountainhead eventually comes full circle after Nathan escapes to Martha’s Vineyard, changes his name, and becomes an abrasive in-home aide to a crabby old lady. Years pass and Haney ends up building a giant house on the island. When he doesn’t recognize Nathan (since he shaved his beard and went bald after quitting Electron Motors), Nathan hatches a plan to burn down Haney’s house so he’ll leave the island and not ruin Nathan’s new life: an idea he hatches after watching The Fountainhead.
David obviously knows a lot of actors, and they show up throughout the movie. I think my favorite might be Michael Keaton, playing Joe Stumpo: a Beetlejuice-type character with a hat and beard. You’ll also see Liev Schrieber as a serious Chechen “salesman” and J.B. Smoove in basically the same role he plays on Curb Your Enthusiasm – he’s introduced when David punches him in the face after being startled and they have a discussion about whether it happened just because Smoove is black.
If you’ve ever watched any Curb Your Enthusiasm episodes, you know Nathan is bound to fail. I am a fan of how neatly David ties up all the varying storyline points into a nice conclusion, but I realized watching the movie leaves me feeling the same way I do after watching too many Curb Your Enthusiasm episodes: irrationally angry at everyday situations because I became so used to watching David complain at normal social interactions and the minor inconveniences of life. If you don’t mind this side effect, Clear History is a clever story with some memorable characters, and might be worth a watch if you can forgive its similarity to David’s previous work.
The movie includes very picturesque scenes of Martha’s Vineyard and offers the realistic feeling of small-town cottage life. The look and sound is very reminiscent of…wait for it…Curb Your Enthusiasm. HBO has a reputation for excellent audio and video quality on their home video releases, and this is certainly in line with their reputation.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars