Review: HBO's Clear History

If you’re a fan of Curb Your Enthusiasm, you’re sure to like Clear History, HBO’s latest effort from Curb star Larry David. In fact, at times, the star-studded story of two executives and their falling out over the first electric car plays very much like a extra-long episode of David’s quirky series.

The film stars David as Nathan Flomm, the shaggy-haired marketing guru at startup Electron Motors, which develops the first marketable electric car. Angry over “the Howard” — the name Electron boss Will Haney (Jon Hamm) gives to the company’s creation — Nathan quits in a Curb-like pique and cashes in his 10% stake in the firm.

When the Howard becomes a huge success, Nathan becomes the subject of national ridicule for passing up the resultant windfall. The public humiliation eventually forces him underground.

Flash forward 10 years, and we’re reintroduced to Nathan, now going incognito as “Rolly DeVore.” He’s working as live-in aide to an elderly woman on Martha’s Vineyard, having shorn his hippie haircut and re-establishing himself as a well-liked island denizen.

His past comes back to haunt him, though, when Haney begins building a massive mansion on the island. The film’s loose plot then centers around Rolly’s attempt at revenge, aided by his best friend Frank (Danny McBride); Joe Stumpo, the island’s resident demolitions expert (a hard-to-recognize Michael Keaton); and Stumpo’s assistant, Rags (Bill Hader).

And the plot, is indeed, loose, as the improvised film, directed by Greg Mottola (Superbad, Adventureland) is essentially a bunch of Curb-like set pieces on such subjects as what constitutes an apology, proper silverware hygiene and the band Chicago. It’s more a comedy of manners than one that pokes fun at the business startup culture, it’s main plot conceit.

Virtually everyone on-screen is a familiar face, as the ensemble cast includes the likes of Kate Hudson as Haney’s wife, Rhonda; Eva Mendes, Philip Baker Hall, Amy Ryan and Curb regular J.B. Smoove as the various townsfolk; and — in the film’s funniest performance — Liev Schreiber (Ray Donovan) as a scene-stealing Chechnyan gangster.

Unfortunately, save for one scene early on, Hamm isn’t given too much opportunity to show off his comedic chops, while David’s character doesn’t stray too far from his Curb namesake.

If you’re a Curb fan, expect to be satisfied by Clear History. If you’re expecting something different than a supersize Curb episode, though, you’ll likely walk away disappointed.

Michael Demenchuk

Mike Demenchuk has served as content manager of Broadcasting+Cable and Multichannel News since 2016. After stints as reporter and editor at Adweek, The Bond Buyer and local papers in New Jersey, he joined the staff of Multichannel News in 1999 as assistant managing editor and has served as the cable trade publication's managing editor since 2005. He edits copy and writes headlines for both the print magazine and website, wrangles the occasional e-newsletter and reviews TV shows from time to time. He's also the guy to bother with your guest blog, Fates & Fortunes and Freeze Frame submissions.