Anyone familiar with Larry David’s work on “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Seinfeld” knows that he runs the gamut of coincidence, irony, awkwardness and anxiety-ridden obsessiveness. He has a unique and undeniably truthful grasp on his material which helps him rise above common comedic tripe. His humor is not for everyone as his characters, especially one’s he himself portrays, can be combative and obsessive to an agonizing level. David’s range is limited however he absolutely nails the paranoia and anxiety of his characters. “Clear History” continues right along with this level of comedy.
Nathan Flomm (Larry David) is a brilliant marketer for a new electric car start up in San Jose California who also has a 10% stake in the company. His boss, Will Haney played straight by Jon Hamm, has just announced he has named their premiere car The Howard. Because he hates the name so much Nathan sells back his shares and quits. After selling his shares, the company explodes financially. With his wife leaving him and facing an enormous amount of ridicule after being known nationally as the man who lost out on a billion dollar return on investment, he clears his history by assuming a new identity with a drastic new physical look and moving to Martha’s Vineyard. The rest of the movie picks up 10 years later where is new name is Rolly and he has a new life with new friends who do not know who he was. All is well until his past comes back to threaten his peaceful new life.
Right off the bat there is a strong “Curb Your Enthusiasm” feel to the film, with a dash of “Office Space.” The plot is simple, however in the case of this film it’s only a vehicle to have Larry David act like only he can. It’s filled with the typical Larry David brain dump about everyday mundane things and that is far from a bad thing. He has an honesty in his writing and an even more honest way of acting on it no matter how awkward or absurd it may seem. There is a tremendous amount of awkward personal interactions with people, mostly dealing with asking one too many questions leading to inappropriateness. He sticks to his convictions no matter how ill-timed or inappropriate they are. In an early scene Nathan meets his boss’s son and his nanny. He becomes instantly fixated with the large braid in the nanny’s hair asking such questions as how long it took to braid and how many times a week she washes it. He then can’t stop himself from giving her some too truthful advice that she should be washing her hair more than once a week. Another great moment is when he is haggling with a Russian arms dealer over the high price of a detonator, comparing his thoughts on the price to contestants on the Price is Right guessing the price of an oven.
The performances are all terrific. Larry David is perfect as basically himself. Jon Hamm’s turn as the boss is efficient and straight-laced. Frank (Danny McBride) as Rolly’s friend is a typical yet somewhat restrained role for him. Michael Keaton is almost unrecognizable at first as Joe Stumpo and you can tell he has a lot of fun chewing up every scene he is in. Kate Hudson is only there as a plot device but does have a good argument scene with Larry. Rounding out the large cast is Lieb Schreiber, J.B Smoove, Eve Mendes and Bill Hader
The 1.78:1 standard def image is average at best. Even viewing on a Blu-ray player, there is not much noticeable upconversion. It’s not a terrible image just not the best I’ve seen for standard def. There’s some slight aliasing, banding and shimmering but in my eyes they can all be forgiven as this is more about the writing and plot than CGI explosions and landscapes. If you absolutely need the best visual quality, go with the Blu-ray, otherwise the S-DVD will be just fine for those who are just worried about seeing the movie and nothing else.
The same basically goes for the 5.1 Dolby Digital track. It’s serviceable for lossy. Some of the music sounds pretty good and the dialogue is never a problem. There are no noticeable glitches, hissing or pops. Bass is present as well as some nice higher pitched moments during the Chicago songs.
If you’re a fan of “Curb your Enthusiasm”, then you will also be a fan of “Clear History”. It feels like fans have been gifted with an elongated, bizarre alternate universe episode. It has the exact same look and feel with Larry David acting like his typical self; hilarious, inappropriate and minutia obsessed. It flows by breezily and generates a good amount of “how the heck is this going to end” feelings as the film goes on. The S-DVD is average at best but definitely watchable, especially given the type of material it is.