Larry David has the distinction for being one of my favorite comedians of all time. Seinfeld is my favorite sitcom and Curb Your Enthusiasm has had me laughing for years. When I first heard that David was planning on making a made-for-TV film on HBO called Clear History, I was excited to see what the comedian had in store. While the result was somewhat disappointing, I enjoyed Clear History enough to recommend it, though it isn’t up to the high standard David has shown before.
David stars as Nathan Flomm, a long haired marketing executive who works with Will Haney (Jon Hamm), who has designed a new electric car which he expects to be the next big thing. After disagreeing with Will over the name (“the Howard”), Nathan leaves the venture and gives up his 10% share in the company. Unfortunately, the Howard becomes the next big thing and Nathan discovers he could have made a billion dollars from his deal.
Ten years later, Nathan has moved on to Martha’s Vineyard, where he’s taken Rowley and attempted to restart his life anew after being disgraced and losing his hair. Nathan’s life soon takes a turn again as Will returns into his life after buying a large mansion on the island. Feeling that Will will destroy him again, Nathan plots revenge with his best friend Frank (Danny McBride).
Clear History has a similar structure as Curb Your Enthusiasm, not only featuring David’s signature rudeness, improvisation, and the show’s celebrity appearances (other than Hamm and McBride, Michael Keaton, Phillip Baker Hall, Bill Hader, Eva Mendes, and Kate Hudson make appearances and the band Chicago even has a short cameo) but also the running jokes and multiple comic pay-offs. While this works well for thirty minutes in Curb, it doesn’t run as smoothly for an hour and a half film and at times Clear History feels like an extended Curb episode. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, since most Curb episodes are side-splitting, but the gags in Clear History are often hit-or-miss and I felt Larry David’s story was a bit underdeveloped. I would have liked to seen Will being more developed and a better introduction to Nathan’s life in Martha’s Vineyard. However, the jokes in Clear History that do work work really well (a bit about Nathan pitching an idea about putting urinals in cars was my favorite part of the entire film) and redeem the movie’s weaknesses.
It’s not the greatest thing David’s done and while somewhat disappointing, I found plenty to like in Clear History. I would have preferred if David had made another season of Curb, but this is good enough filler in between the show’s hiatus.