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Movie Review: Sour Grapes

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“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.

Visit me here: Generic Mugwump
Edited: [!–GH–]

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About Aaron Fleming

  • Both my husband and I love this movie. I missed it in the theater, but happy I caught the CD. It’s one of my favorites with Craig Bierko

  • Sara

    I’ve seen this movie, and I agree 100%!!!! I’m a huge Craig Bierko fan, and I think he played the character of Richie brilliantly. And the scene between Richie and his boss is my favorite part. So glad someone else out there appreciates this underrated gem.

  • 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.

    It can’t be better than this line above – I love it!

    But even so, it sounds great. I wonder how I too, never heard of it.

    Good Job Sir Fleming : )

  • “I have no idea how this one passed us all by.”

    Not all of us. I caught in in the theater.

  • Outstandingness, Sir Fleming, I have no idea how this one passed us all by. Any David-related flick is surely worth a look see.

    Duke, I think it’s important to circle back to the ’90s and realize how groundbreaking Seinfeld was at the time and try to forget about how nearly cliched and overcopied and parodied the show is today. Indeed, it was very nearly brushed aside early on for being too “Jewish” or “New York” or whatever.

    My favorite thing about Seinfeld is the devilish narcissism of all the main players. That close-to-real-life edge fuels much of its humor and that’s largely due to David’s influence of course.

    Curb is more of an aquired taste, I think, as it’s more pure and thus produces humor from more painful and awkward situations. But when I get in the right mood it’s a pure joy to witness.

  • outstanding reviewery, Sir Fleming. As we’ve discussed, i lean with far more, well, enthusiasm towards Curb than Seinfeld, but anythin Larry-related is to be cherished. Meaning i must seek this picture out soon as possible, especially after this glorious screed. If a man can’t trust Sir Fleming, who can he trust? Not the vagrant fella at the bus-stop, that’s for sure, with his two ounces of “good stuff”.

  • Ah the wit, the myrth, the hilarity. Why, it must be another Fleming review. Good job kind sir.

  • Why thank you very much Gordon, extremely appreciated!

  • Aaron–well done again. I’ll probably seek out this movie, but I can’t see how it can be much more witty and entertaining than your writing. Thanks.