Several hours ago, I typed my review of the new comedy We're the Millers and remarked how it does something a bit different than many modern comedies and it was the fact that the film didn't seem to obsess with being the raunchiest, most offensive film ever made. It didn't rely heavily on sight-gags and overwrought sequences of sex to get humor, but rather, on character personalities and dialog. Now, later today, I review Clear History, a terrific comedy of errors that relies completely on dialog and situations that work against its lead character in every possible way. It's depressing, cruel, and undoubtedly self-deprecating, but you simply can't look away.
I've said it several people and have published it many times, but I'll say it reiterate my point that Larry David's program Curb Your Enthusiasm, which is now on hiatus after eight seasons, is a work of television brilliance and quite possibly the funniest comedy ever to hit television. This is because the show relies on the building blocks of comedy, which are putting a character in a situation he doesn't want to be in and putting him through obstacles he either isn't fit to go through or simply doesn't want to go through. Because the show is heavily improvised and not formally scripted, this allows for authenticity in emotion, humor, and dialog, showcasing the characters' (and for that matter the actors') personalities. Every laugh is authentic and every true moment is genuine, rather than being outlined in a complex script. Moreover, even the show raises brilliant ethical debates and questions personal etiquette because of situations Larry David winds up getting into. I can't tell you after how many episodes of the show I argued with myself over what option in a specific situation was better.
Clear History has been called the unofficial Curb Your Enthusiasm movie and that is a fair and accurate summation. It possesses the same tone as the program, which is often self-deprecating and personal, it has some of the same actors, the same naturalistic way of filming, the beautiful Italian score, and the countless number of situations that do not work out in the lead characters' favor. David stars as Nathan Flomm, a marketing agent for Electron Motors, a renowned car company, who decides to give up his ten-percent share in the company when the owner Will Haney (Jon Hamm) unleashes a new model car he does not agree with. He doesn't mind the fact that the car is compact, electric, and a little odd-looking (sort of a goofier-looking Smart-Car), but the fact that it is named "Howard," after Will's son.
"Nobody's gonna buy a car named 'Howard'" Call it 'Duey' - 'Duey''s a good name - call it 'Duncan,'" Nathan says to try and change his mind. But Will is set with the name, claiming it will bring in untold millions. And, boy, is he right. After selling his share back, Nathan realizes he has made a colossal mistake, as the "Howard" is now the biggest car in the world and the idea has brought forth over a billion dollars. Shamed, humiliated, and made an outright joke for a simple misconception, Nathan moves away and starts a new life. Ten years later, he looks completely different and lives under the name "Rolly DaVore" in Martha's Vineyard, living a more peaceful, quiet life. Everything seems great until Will, his old boss, visits the area and plans to erect a giant home in the Vineyard. This allows for "Rolly" to hatch a plan, which is more asinine than anything he has ever come up with.
The film works because it relies on its characters and, like Curb Your Enthusiasm, the idea that a character has to partake in something he doesn't want to and winds up being humiliated in every setup. This irony, combined with David's familiar but instantly lovable character who has to make a comment about trivial things like shampooing once a week, the lack of eye-level outlets, how silverware can not be placed on a table that has just been wiped-down with a rag, and how there can't be a "tat" when there was no "tit" is precisely why the film is so engaging and entertaining. These ridiculous setups provide for hilarity and nonstop fun, which is what the film is all around.
Fueled by a tremendous cast featuring comedy greats such as Danny McBride, Bill Hader, and Curb's underrated but quick-witted J.B. Smoove, this is as close-to-home as an unrelated film on the series you could get. I was heartbroken at the fact that season nine of Curb Your Enthusiasm was not even in Larry David's sight, but the fact that we got a genuinely entertaining, uproariously funny film in place of the season is more than enough. This is one of the funniest comedies - and possibly one of the strongest films - of the year.
NOTE: Clear History will air throughout the remainder of August and September on HBO.
Starring: Larry David, Bill Hader, Philip Baker Hall, Jon Hamm, Kate Hudson, Michael Keaton, Danny McBride, Eva Mendes, Amy Ryan, and J.B. Smoove. Directed by: Greg Mottola.
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