– Larry David basically plays the same character in his new made-for-TV film that he plays in his great HBO sitcom “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
Wanna make something out of it? Because I sure don’t.
It will take only a few minutes of “Clear History,” premiering Saturday on HBO, not only to “forgive” David for repeating himself but to thank him for reminding us why we miss “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and hope it comes back soon.
Written by David and directed by Greg Mottola, “Clear History” begins in Silicon Valley a decade ago. David plays Nathan Flomm, an aging hippie marketing genius who got in on the ground floor of a Tesla-like company trying to create a financially viable electric car.
The company is run by Will Haney (Jon Hamm, “Mad Men”), whose tolerance for Flomm’s constant complaining reaches its limit when Flomm vociferously objects to Haney’s decision to name the new car after his son, Howard. Nathan quits in a huff, immediately wishes he hadn’t, but finds he’s burned his bridges with Haney.
Naturally, the Howard becomes the hottest car on the highway.
Flash forward a decade and Nathan has moved to Martha’s Vineyard and changed his name to Rolly DeVore. His shoulder-length hair and beard having long ago left the building, Rolly looks and acts just like Larry David, by which I mean the “Larry David” of “Curb.”
Where a typical “Curb” episode might focus on a particular issue – or, to be fair, nonissue – in Larry’s life, “Clear History” has an extended plot that’s heavily screwball comedy with a dash of the goofiness of those daffy postwar comedies turned out by Britain’s Ealing Studios. It all turns on Nathan trying to live down the biggest regret of his life and to avoid the constant mockery he has endured as the man who gave up a chance to make a billion dollars.
Will Haney and his beautiful young wife, Rhonda (Kate Hudson), buy a house on the Vineyard. Hilarity really does ensue, as Rolly tries first to hide his real identity from his old colleague, then comes up with ridiculous schemes designed to get payback from Haney for what Nathan actually did to himself.
The cast alone is worth the price of subscribing to HBO: Michael Keaton is a half-mad, “Beetlejuice”-like local named Joe Stumpo, who blows things up for a living and for fun; Bill Hader (“Saturday Night Live”) is his predictably nuts assistant, Rags; Amy Ryan (“The Office”) is a local waitress and Rolly’s ex-live-in girlfriend; Eva Mendes (“The Women”) is a formerly overweight woman whose relationship with Jaspar (JB Smoove, “Curb Your Enthusiasm”) hits the rocks after Rolly interferes; and Danny McBride (“Eastbound & Down”) is Frank, Rolly’s best friend and the only one who knows his true identity. Liev Schreiber (“Ray Donovan”) is uncredited as Tibor, a hilariously deadpan low-level Chechen crook.