Larry David: Curb Your Enthusiasm Movie Review
Of course I had my suspicions before that. The conversations Larry David was having were a little too Seinfeldian in nature. The conflicts a little too contrived. What they said all seemed to flow naturally, as most mockumentary dialogue does (see The Blair Witch Project's bit about Gilligan's Island). The camera shook just the right amount. The colors had that amateurish hue associated when you don't have cinematographers shining lights in people's faces or a very good DV. Knowing Weide's latest works (Lenny Bruce: Swear to Tell the Truth and being the writer-producer for Mother Night), I couldn't help but crack a smile as I realized that one was being put over on millions of HBO viewers across the country. Its the exact kind of thing that Larry David and Robert Weide would (and obviously do) love.
The mockumentary is the documentary's teenager. It runs around, does whatever it wants, and keeps going back and forth between the line between entertainment and intelligence. Contrary to popular belief, it existed before this summer's smash The Blair Witch Project (see This is Spinal Tap), and will exist long after the profit record for BWP is broken. To give a simple definition, it is a documentary that either tackles a fake subject or tackles a real subject in a contrived way. Much as I praised Lenny Bruce: Swear to Tell the Truth for being one of the finest documentaries I had ever seen, Larry David: Curb Your Enthusiasm is the best mockumentary I have ever seen.
Larry David: Curb Your Enthusiasm is the supposed documentary about the preparation for Larry David's return to stand up with an HBO special, which is eventually canceled at Larry's request (between a 3,000-seat auditorium and a picture of him that looked like Woody Allen as if a cigarette had just been removed from his mouth, he goes the way of George's dad and says "I can't take it anymore" (but of course lies about the reason)). Over the period of 44 days, Larry David is followed by the camera which records everything from a bit regarding Carolyn instead of Caroline, a near-divorce because Larry gets caught in the park with his adulterous manager's girlfriend, and a letter of recommendation gone to hell in a handbasket.
Because Weide is a great documentarian, he is able to be a great mockumentarian. He is so very familiar with the technical aspects and stylistic giveaways of documentary filmmaking that his mockumentary seems to be so perfectly real. It balances effortlessly the interviews and the raw footage, inserts David's comedy sets at just the right moments, and puts in some seriousness just to placate all documentary die-hards. Larry David is able to toss the jokes out with the same perfection as he did for nine years as a producer on "Seinfeld", and the two of them combine their efforts to make the mockumentary as surreally believable as some of the episodes of "Seinfeld" are.
As always, I cannot let a movie off without complaining about one thing. My complaint with Curb Your Enthusiasm is that the film seems to have too much direction to it to be completely believable. There are too many little touches for you to believe that this is real, and, in any mockumentary, this is distracting.
But it isn't distracting enough to keep you from laughing your ass off.