I have mixed feelings about Clear History. On the one hand, I am happy that we get more Larry David. On the other, I am disappointed that it isn’t Curb Your Enthusiasm. Still, we get more Larry David, and that’s ok.
In Clear History we see the story of Nathan Flomm (Larry David), an ex marketing guru who partially owned, and subsequently gave up, an electric car company that went on to make billions of dollars. Nathan took it upon himself to sell his share of the ownership of the company after a creative disagreement on the name of the car at hand, the “Howard”. It doesn’t take long for Nathan to realize that he made a grave mistake. Unwilling to give Nathan back his 10% share of the company, company owner Will Haney (Jon Hamm) ultimately costs Nathan a billion dollars in future revenue.
Disgraced, Nathan retreats to a life of anonymity on Martha’s Vineyard, escaping his past, and in a way, escaping himself. That is until his boss shows up on the island 10 years later to build a mansion. Determined to get back at his former boss, Nathan (now known as “Raleigh”) devises a plan to blow up Will Haney’s house. In between, we see Larry David being Larry David.
This film is a Larry David film. There is no doubt about that at all. The movie feels like a long episode of Curb, but not a good episode. We see Larry David being classic Larry David with his myriad of funny real life observations, awkward social interactions, and all out social ineptness. Take the example of the eye-level wall outlet. Why do you always have to move furniture to find a wall outlet? They should be eye-level!! Or how about the fact that the local diner’s waitress refuses to put silverware on a clean napkin? Instead, she puts them directly onto a dirty table. Things like this feel right at home in Curb.
But, this isn’t Curb, and the jokes aren’t really that funny. What works in shorter, 30 minute episodes seems to lose its cachet after being reused and recycled throughout the length of a feature film. One recurring joke in particular, the “blowing Chicago” joke, simply wasn’t funny and it went on way too long in the movie. It just felt like it was a joke we heard before long ago. Since…Clerks maybe?
Additionally, the story itself just wasn’t compelling. The movie could best be described as an ok straight to DVD flick (or is it straight to blueray nowadays?). Even then, I would find it hard to recommend anyone who isn’t already a Larry David fan to watch. In fact, I would be embarrassed if this is someone’s only exposure to David’s work and thus was put off towards the possibility of watching Curb because of it.
Sure, there are bright spots in the film. Michael Keaton in particular is fabulous in his trashy, redneck role. As is his “partner”. We see a funny Chechen gangster and we see a fat Eva Mendes. Those were some highlights of the film. Sadly, it just isn’t enough for the film to be truly great. Or even good for that matter.
One can not come into this film and leave it without thinking that David’s talents and effort could have been better put to use making another season of Curb. But that is the quandary that we have to deal with. Although we are invested in Curb and all of the characters that come with it, it simply can’t last forever. If a ninth season of the show never comes to fruition, more power to it. It will go down as one of the all time great comedy series.
We all want Curb to last forever, but it simply can’t. Instead we see films like Clear History and get disparaged. But that’s ok. As long as Larry David is putting out things for us to watch, I’m happy. Eventually he will strike gold again. This time, though, he simply didn’t.