No matter how “Larry David: Curb Your Enthusiasm” is interpreted — an indictment of the people within the entertainment industry or a linear delusion of one of comedy’s funniest thinkers — it is the work of genius. David shrouds this dark comedy in nihilism and defense mechanisms, distancing it from films that have taken similar tacks (“Waiting for Guffman,” for example) and produced more obviously humorous works. Beyond the intriguing nature of the bizarrely “normal” David, the big question of what is real and what isn’t should definitely add to repeat viewings, transforming this hourlong into the comedic equivalent of “The Blair Witch Project.”
Premise is exceedingly simple: a film of David, a former executive producer and main writer of “Seinfeld,” as he prepares for his return to standup comedy after a nearly 10-year absence. Second half would document his show along with anecdotes and tributes from “Seinfeld” alumni.
Manager Jeff Greene (Jeff Garlin) makes the initial pitch to two fawning HBO development execs (Allan Wasserman and Judy Toll) who spew phoniness and delight at every turn. It’s the first of David’s many encounters with people he finds contemptible; not only is he repulsed over and over again by human interaction, but he wonders what happened to the days when he actually knew men who liked him.
From there he struggles in countless situations — at home with his wife, in a meeting with the HBO execs planning his show, eating breakfast with two comedians, with actress Caroline Rhea at a restaurant and later in a parking lot, with a Warner Bros. exec on the phone and even while taking a walk through Central Park.
Onstage he appears at ease despite the testimony of several individuals that he never felt comfortable up there in the first place. Indeed, his road to showbiz success was circuitous. Whereas most comedians work in hopes of getting a sitcom to star in, David’s material and persona wound up becoming “Seinfeld.” And it’s Jerry Seinfeld who best understands David, pegging him as the ultimate example of “people are what they are despite the environment.” No matter how much David turns his world upside down, he functions the same.
Documentary feel is present throughout as there’s not a slick, well-orchestrated shot in the entire hour. Camera angles are truly from the fly-on-the-wall perspective and sound has just enough echo to make the telepic believable from start to finish.
Credibility is tested only by an HBO publicist’s delight in gossip about Molly Shannon and an HBO production meeting that feeds off a bit too much eagerness. Still, it does have a priceless shot of one of the HBO producers stubbornly accepting defeat.
David’s self-absorption — and why shouldn’t it be there, it is his show — is 100% “Seinfeld.” In his routines, there’s an aura of Jerry; in his personal mishegas, we see Jerry dealing with a world in disarray; when David bombs onstage, he blames it on what happens “when you run out of nothing,” a definite ode to Jerry.
It gets one to wonder: If this familiar character is Larry David, who exactly is Jerry Seinfeld?