Saturday, February 25, 2006

Movie Review: Sour Grapes

"Comedy is an imitation of inferior people.
The laughable is an error or disgrace.”
Aristotle, The Poetics

We all know Larry David right? Infamous co-creator of Seinfeld, mastermind behind Curb Your Enthusiasm, all-round comedic genius. Seinfeld has those great, witty observations care of Jerry, but we’ll all be honest and say that what really typified the humour of the show were those little annotations accorded to various characters, whether it be a ‘close-talker,’ or a ‘bubble-boy,’ undoubtedly kindled by Larry. The snide misanthropic sanctimony dished out regularly, and brought back so irreverently (albeit somewhat shabbily) in the finale when our patriarch returned to his child.

Following his exit from the television world, Larry, tired with the confines of network TV, tried his hand at making a movie. The offspring of that particular endeavour was Sour Grapes.

Critically panned when it emerged in 1998, it is still spat upon from high arches of snobbish perception, kicked and trodden by the bourgeoisie of comic farce. And unjustifiably so.

Larry drops us cascading into the tale of two cousins, Evan and Richie. They go off for a weekend to the Diet Vegas delights of Atlanta, with their respective lady friends in tow. In the spirit of conventionality, they fail to alight their gambling objectives, and end up in the dark shadows of the losing vertical. Slightly dejected, they retire to the slots to exhaust away those last few scampering coins. It is here that Richie ends up winning four hundred-odd grand of the finest American currency. And all is happy. But no, this is Larry David, mighty alchemist of the misunderstanding and awkward situation. Ya see, those three quarters that prompted all the successes, two of them were gifted from Evan. And so a yarn of bickering and one-upmanship unfolds for our laughing joints to get all out of synch over.

I return to that aforementioned criticism. It is unfounded in the extreme. Sure I felt a notch of unease with the number of familiar themes presented within the first ten minutes i.e. a mysterious growth which should or should not be checked out (seen in both Seinfeld and Curb). But after a while the repeated whack of everyday minutiae begins to embrace your very being into the wonderful world of Larry David. It’s a fantastic piece of cinematic comedy, do not listen to those heathens that’ll inform you otherwise while probably at the same time stealing the cotton out your mixed-fabrics.

Some criticisms arrived in the shape of nasty pejoratives aimed at Craig Bierko who plays Richie. He cheeses it up, but it works, and I found him nothing less than joyful to view. The joy was evermore increased when I realised what I knew him from, turns out he was Lacerda in Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas, that madcap swine of a photojournalist. His opposite is Steven Weber playing Evan, who looks like a cross between Jerry Seinfeld (how fitting) and Christian Bale. If only Bale had played Superman rather than Batman, oh the metaphoric potential!

The film contains all the usual elements we’ve come to religiously expect from Larry, who else would think up something as brilliant as a man being accused of sounding a bit Spanish in mid-spoken exchange. And cameos from many familiar faces, actors who have had minor parts in the assorted shows from the antiquity of time. Larry himself even has a couple of cameos, although one is only a fraction of Larry running along the frame (the IMDB lists three roles, it’s either wrong or I missed one in a fit of laughing). The main one is as a studio exec, complete with moustache and hair makeup, just like his Scorsese character in season three of Curb.

Special mention to Philip Baker Hall in the cameo department. His Bookman character from ‘The Library’ episode of Seinfeld is hanging on the apex of guest appearances for not only that show, but any syndicated program in the history of mass communication. Hall plays Richie’s boss Mr Bell, the following is a transcript of their beatific dialogue, Mr Bell has just fired Richie:

Mr Bell: I’ll tell you another thing, you’re not a good sole designer.
Richie: Hey! I’m a great sole designer. Great!
Mr Bell: No, you’re not.
Richie: That’s your opinion.
Mr Bell: That’s right.
Richie: Well, we disagree.
Mr Bell: Yes, we do.
Richie: Well, you take care of yourself.
Mr Bell: I intend to.
Richie: I’m sure you do.
Mr Bell: Why wouldn’t I?
Richie: No reason.
Mr Bell: So, why bring it up?
Richie: Just trying to be nice.
Mr Bell: Oh, my mistake.
Richie: I’d say so.

Of course, it’s best witnessed on screen, but you get the point.

In the end do not avoid this film because of a few slanderous remarks, it’s positively shaking with hilarity. Larry David proves he is aptitudinally a deity of the jocular arts, Aristotle would have laughed off his last toga. If you found yourself writhing in chucklesome delights at interoffice calzone politics, or ‘re-gifters’, or house tours refused, then this won’t be of utter repellence to you.


Blogger Miss Templeton said...

Something new to read! Wonderful. But I'm off to some Mardi Gras weekend tomfoolery. A little more somber this year, but tomfoolery will happen nonetheless.

I will read this tomorrow between moments of unsociability.

2:58 am  

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