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Although it's been a long time since I've seen Sour Grapes, the
experience of seeing it- preferably alongside another Seinfeld fan- was
fairly pleasant, in that biting Larry David tone. This was the only
time David wrote and directed a film, and it does show that he's giving
a good try to tell a story within the framework of a film feature all
the way through. It's somehow quite an entertaining piece of quietly
(or not so quietly) deranged satire on envy, sexual frustration, and
the condition of a principle of something. The premise is simple- two
good friends go out to Las Vegas to gamble, one friend asks the other
for a quarter for a slot machine, and via the quarter in the slot
machine the guy wins a helluva lot of money. By the friend with the
original quarter's estimation, a part of that change is his, but the
friend now says that it isn't. A likely Seinfeld sub-plot is stretched
out so that the ideas are given a little breathing room, even if one
recognizes that, perhaps, it would be a masterpiece if it were simply a
Seinfeld episode, or more appropriately a Curb Your Enthusiasm with
even more acidic humor and total unease thrown at the situation.
Around the premise, David also tosses in a supporting character who has one of his testicles removed- the wrong one by the doctor, who is one of the friends- and despite his now high voice (ho-ho) he seeks out some payback. That's one of the clearest big gags, as obvious as it is, is the moment when the 'testicle-man', as one might be tempted to describe him, is told by the doctor that the wrong one was taken out during surgery, to his immediate fainted response in a cut-away. On top of this, David experiments with some stupid sex humor (not that there wasn't at least a little later on on CYE, eg Jeff's mother's ass at a stoplight), like with Bierko's character in the self-humiliation of not being able to, um, 'service' himself in a certain way, under the stress of the tear in the friendship. As mentioned, none of this really makes for the kind of classic comedy one might expect, or crave, from maybe one of the only geniuses (yeah, I said it) working in comedy today. But as almost something of a fluke, it does its job well.
If I had believed all the negative on-line reviews for this film, I probably never would have rented it. But I'm very glad I didn't pay heed. While "Sour Grapes" may not quite reach the comedic heights of Larry David's "Curb Your Enthusiasm" on HBO, there's enough of David's hilarious, mean-spirited, offbeat humor to please any fan of his classic comedy series (oh, yeah, and Seinfeld fans, too). The circuitous way the plot unfolds and then crazily accelerates is very much in the style of both series and the two leads, especially the under-appreciated Craig Bierko,are great. Director and writer David takes perfect aim at such diverse targets as overbearing mothers (the actress in this part is wonderful), dutiful sons, feckless sitcom stars, brain surgeons (who shouldn't fiddle around with testicles), and homeless people. I can see why this film was a flop at the box-office. Larry David is an acquired taste and better suited to a niche audience on cable. But if you like anything else he's done, you shouldn't miss this overlooked little beauty.
It's so funny that I didn't know Larry David wrote the script to this movie,
because the whole time I was watching it I kept saying "That scene was just
like something out of Seinfeld." or "That character reminds me of George
Costanza" or "He kinda reminds me of Kramer.".
Larry David applies his unique brand of comedy to this script very well. It literally plays out like a long "Seinfeld" or "Curb Your Enthusiasm" episode. All the elements are here. Especially the way everything is related in the end.
The movie also has some really good performances from the cast, namely Steven Weber and Craig Bierko. Both of them are very fun to watch here. You can tell they must have had fun making the movie, because they work together very well.
Like I said, very Seinfeld-ish. Now that you know Larry David wrote it, you'll notice even more Larry David elements within the movie. They're everywhere when you consider the structure of the plot, the amplified & quirky characters etc...
For all of the good things i had heard about this movie, i was very disappointed. This movie was nothing more than an extention of Seinfeld, which was co-created and written by Larry David. There are conversations about hotel sex and Craig Beirko reminded me of George with his constantly reminding everyone that a doctor didn't hold a door for him. Even the parody of "Friends", wasn't funny. Larry David is a smart and witty guy, but this movie was just a miss.
This plays like an extended sitcom, with the only thing missing being a laugh track. The entire movie seems stretched with non relevant material, such as the missing bag of cookies, or the elevator rudeness. There are a few chuckles along the way to the rather dark conclusion. Neither Steven Weber or Craig Bierko elicits any sympathy, so you wind up really not caring who gets a leg up on whom. Both girlfriends and the Mother are nothing but annoyances. The whole script beyond the initial idea of the slot machine sequence, seems like forced outrageousness. At best, a rather mediocre film that belongs on television, and nothing more. - MERK
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
An old premise, family bickering over money, is never fully explored here. Weber and Bierko are cousins, Weber loans Bierko 50 cents on a slot machine, and when Bierko hits it big, Weber expects half the prize money (reasonable I'd say). Instead he and Bierko feud the rest of the way, with one pulling constant stunts on the other, none of which are very amusing. Weber, a doctor, tells Bierko he's dying, at which point Bierko actually tries to have his mother scared to death so she won't have to live without him. And Weber, so distracted by the feud with Bierko, inadvertently amputates both testicles of a big time tv star. And get ready to laugh your brains out...the tv star now talks in a high voice. Oh please stop, you're killing me. And you'll love when Bierko gives himself oral sex in a totally lame, unconvincing scene where he constantly picks his head wayyyyyy up and then down...yeah, sure. The mark is missed consistently in this letdown.
Frankly, I find this movie difficult to watch every time. So many things occur that just seem to spiral down into chaos causing chaos causing chaos. The main characters, at first...you take a side...then eventually you'll realize that neither are in the right. But one does something to the other, which is unspeakably terrible...and receives the same in turn. Eventually when it's all over, something ultimately terrible happens. Suspense is not only something that relates to a horror film, in my opinion...upon seeing this film. The director perfected it to an almost migraine inducing level. If you are patient, this movie is fantastic. If you're not, and you simply can't stand it...well perhaps this isn't for you.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I'm a Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm fan. What I liked in this movie was its unique story and how things get going. Things get complicated like in Seinfeld and CYE, but that could have been done better. It's not so funny like in Larry David's sitcoms. Larry should have added more humor and talk-jokes in the movie script. It's like I'm watching a Seinfeld episode written by an amateur stand-up comedian. Larry, it was because of the money, wasn't'it? Both characters are very much like Larry David. They talk and make gestures in the same way Larry does in Curb Your Enthusiasm; this can be very annoying and boring (like "Pretty, pretty, pretty good..."). And the guy who won at the casino is not such a good actor. He reminds me of Stephen Snedden from spin off series The Lone Gunmen - he is really that bad. And his wife resembles Susie from Curb Your Enthusiasm. And that horrible soundtrack! It's always the same song over and over again. And I used to like classic music...
What a waste of time. Do not watch this movie if you have watched Seinfeld or Curb Your Enthusiasm. You have already seen it. It is full of the same jokes, the same sight gags and the same comedic premises. It was a waste of two hours. Larry David is a very funny man but he obviously ran out of material a long time ago. He is rehashing old ideas, familiar scenes and retelling old jokes. You can tell he directed it very early on when both main characters act in exactly the same manner as George in Seinfeld or Larry himself would in Curb Your Enthusiasm. You can almost picture him telling the actors this is how I want you to play this scene. The auntie is also just a rehash of every Jewish mother in all his works. It is the same character, and a racial stereo type as well. The way he uses black characters is nothing short of racist, but we already knew this from Season 1 Episode 9 of Curb Your Enthusiasm, and before that ten years of Seinfeld. In short it is full of misunderstandings, slight misses of important phone calls and gross over reactions to minor irritants. When the elevator scene came around late in the movie, I couldn't take it any more. How many times have we seen the exact same scene? Utter rubbish!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Sour Grapes has a certain appeal for Larry David fans like myself, but
ultimately, it's too long and overdone. This is a perfect example of
eclectic humor where for every one person who finds a certain event
funny there are ten people who are appalled or left scratching their
This isn't bad, and it serves as a precursor to writer and director Larry David's new hit show Curb Your Enthusiasm, currently finished with its eight season. The show began in 1999, and Sour Grapes was completed and released in 1998. It bares a striking resemblance in some cases, and the way some scenes end with an awkward conversation or a random event occurring now seem like it was hinting at what Larry David would find success with later in his career. It's an interesting little setup, but not executed well enough.
What makes Curb Your Enthusiasm work so well? I think it's the character of Larry and his bizarre situations, the highly relatable quality of him that many people find in themselves, and the fact that the character himself is so open with discussing random, off the wall situations. It's a unique and daring show that should be lucky it clicks so well with audiences. But it's not everyone's humor, and neither is Sour Grapes. Maybe if Larry David waited a little while longer, worked on Curb for a few seasons, and made a made a bigger name for himself this film would've been more understood and a bit more of a success. Sadly, we'll have to give it the time period it was conducted in.
The story follows around two cousins named Evan and Ritchie (Weber and Bierko). Both of them and their spouses go to Atlantic City for the weekend. The men decide to play the slots. Ritchie asks to borrow two quarters after Evan told him to be eligible to win the jackpot you must put in at least three quarters. Ritchie does and boom, wins the jackpot of $436,214.50. How did I remember that? Because you'll hear that number more times in this film than any other number regardless of amount or digits in any film probably in your life.
Evan believes he is entitled to at least half of Ritchie's earnings, but Ritchie believes he only owes Evan the two quarters and nothing more. As you would imagine, the money comes between the two cousins and they bicker like little kids. I admire the film for at least setting up a plausible quibble that will likely have a typical person siding with one of the main characters. Personally, I'm middle of the road having sympathy with Evan believing he entitled to a small portion of the money since he contributed to the win. No more than maybe a fourth of the money should be given to him, but after all, it truly is the gesture that counts.
Trying to settle ends, Evan buys Ritchie a jogging suit for his birthday. Ritchie gives the jogging suit to a bum. Evan sees that the weasel gave the jogging suit away on his ride home. So to get even, when Ritchie goes home after a visit from the doctor, Evan. Evan calls him up and says that he has a rare form of Cancer with only a few months to live. Ritchie, who lives with his mom, worries that his mom won't be able to go on without him and thus sets up a plan for the bum to kill his mother.
Alas, his plan backfires, and now his mother is in the hospital and he is informed that the Cancer call was just a joke. Now both of the men are in hot water and we are supposed to laugh at both of their miseries. I took longer to explain the plot than I usually do, since I believe a review should be more about the thoughts of the person writing rather than solely the plot of the story. But when it comes to Larry David, in order to explain the film, you have to explain almost the whole thing while dodging spoilers. If I'm trying to mention a funny part in Curb to someone, I have to literally tell them the whole episode's synopsis in order for them to effectively get the joke. It's because much of the humor happens because it was the result of a trigger effect caused by the characters. It's a fun and unique way of humor.
This all feels like a dull pilot for a sitcom destined to have half a first season, and since David was also working with Jerry Seinfeld on Seinfeld at the time of this, this could've been a rejected episode idea David wanted to pursue. However, the conflict could've been resulted if the characters had an honest talk with one another instead of acting merely on impulse and present emotions.
The funniest scenes exist not with Weber and Bierko, but with the group of bums who have numerous and far too quick lines of dialog. Some of the funniest characters are severely underwritten in a Larry David picture? No way.
Sour Grapes is cute, but not very well done. It occupies way too much time and leaves way too little accomplished. It becomes not a comedy, but a very long setup that grows weary when blown out of proportion. The two leads are cute, but not memorable. The script isn't sour, but far from sweet. And the directing is of second rate quality. Larry David is a writing wizard, and it is shown here. But he works better when he has a strict time limit, like with his two successful sitcoms, rather than a free range film that isn't time sensitive. It's a curious piece of history for a man so colorful, but brings little to light other than David's writing abilities and his surefire way to create a successful trigger effect in his stories.
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