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Clear History

2013 | 1.78:1

Clear History


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TV release date

 Aug 10, 2013



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Clear History

 (TV) (2013)

Screenshots from Clear History Blu-ray

Clear History Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, August 23, 2013

Love it or hate it, “Clear History” is 100% Larry David. The mastermind behind “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Seinfeld,” David’s DNA is all over this production, which often plays like the most elaborate stand-up comedy special ever filmed. Dripping with neurotic behavior, pained observations, and non sequiturs, the picture is perhaps only of value to die-hard David admirers -- those who have minimal expectation for a complete narrative. However, in the care of director Greg Mottola, “Cleary History” doesn’t get bogged down in programmed shtick, retaining a charming, occasionally uproarious silliness that keeps the movie flowing along from one rant to the next.

A seasoned marketing guru working at an upstart electric car company, Rolly (Larry David) is horrified to learn that the big innovation in automobile energy with be named “Howard.” Voicing his distaste to owner Will (Jon Hamm), Rolly decides to quit, selling back his shares in the fledgling business. A decade later, the Howard is omnipresent on the roads of America, leaving Rolly broke and ashamed, retreating to a quiet life on Martha’s Vineyard taking care of an elderly woman. Changing his look and name, Rolly hopes to avoid the negative publicity that once hounded his life, trying to make peace with ex-girlfriend Wendy (Amy Ryan), who may or may not have performed oral sex on the band Chicago back in the 1970s. When Will arrives in town to complete construction on his tacky mansion, moving in with wife Rhonda (Kate Hudson), Rolly is immediately consumed with revenge, talking pal Frank (Danny McBride) and local goons Stumpo (Michael Keaton) and Rags (Bill Hader) into a plan to blow up the house. Commencing surveillance tactics, Rolly suddenly has a change of heart, electing to seduce Rhonda as a way to make the man who prevented him from a billion-dollar payday suffer.

Co-scripted by David, “Clear History” doesn’t try to be anything but a starring vehicle for the comedian to do what he does best: complain. It’s a simplistic tale of humiliation and imagined redemption, populated with a cast of quirky and dim-witted characters intended to inspire David, surrounding him with plenty of targets to burn with his passive-aggressive acid spray. It’s certainly not challenging work, but David comes across as a performer who’s best served in his comfort zone, building a universe for himself that allows his sense of humor a chance to roam free, making life hilariously miserable for anyone nearby. In Woody Allen’s care in 2009’s “Whatever Works,” David was present but bound by the demands of the director’s artistic vision. “Clear History” feels more like a full gallop, constructing a picture that plays to his strengths of face-tightening discomfort.

Rolly is a hero in his own mind, looking to strike back at a world that’s either done him wrong or made simple tasks incredibly inconvenient. He’s outspoken about restaurant utensil cleanliness (suspicious of the rag that wipes tables clean), is confounded by the idea of knee-high electrical outlet placement, and practically bursts a blood vessel when locked in contests of rural road etiquette with other drivers. Of course, it’s David playing himself (albeit under a massive beard and wig at the opening of the film), but there’s a consistent sense of delusion and judgment to Rolly that forms the outline of a character, especially when the script plays up the ex-employee’s offense over his own undoing, ludicrously angry at Will for locking him out of an electric car fortune he willingly walked away from. The highlights of “Clear History” are the causal encounters with daily irritants, watching David zing his way around uncomfortable confrontations, while additional pressure is pushed on Rolly by the Chicago oral sex mystery (the band plays a major part in the feature, even providing a cameo) and his destructive run-ins with Jaspar, the community’s lone African-American resident watching his relationship with recently slimmed-down Jennifer (Eva Mendes) ruined by Rolly’s interference. The writing labors to turn these encounters into a cohesive story, but they’re best served as vignettes, taking in bite-sized portions of casual insanity.

Mottola keeps the picture moving along swiftly, playing “Clear History” with an emphasis on sight gags and famous faces, turning the effort into a “Muppet Movie” of David admirers, watching an unbilled Liev Schreiber pop up as a Chechen explosives dealer out to collect money for a fender bender caused by Rolly’s enigmatic waving, while supporting talent such as Hudson, Keaton, and McBride land hearty laughs of their own. With its screwball conclusion that steps into Looney Tunes territory, “Clear History” concludes as an extended lark, which isn’t such a defeating prospect. With a cast this capable and a screenplay invested in unusual topics for comedic dissection, the feature does just fine as a platform for David to continue his career quest to perfect the art of unease.

Starring: Larry David, Bill Hader, Jon Hamm, Kate Hudson, Michael Keaton, Danny McBride
Director: Greg Mottola

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