Sour Grapes (1998, Larry David)

Sour Grapes has its moments, unfortunately all the funny ones belong to Orlando Jones. Jones is one of the peripheral characters, maybe the only successful peripheral character in the film actually. As a precursor to David’s far more successful “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” Grapes shows how necessary a proper delivery method is for David’s humor. Here, with Steven Weber and Craig Bierko both essentially playing variations on the David genial misanthrope–Weber to a lesser degree, but Bierko is playing George Costanza–it’s clear something isn’t working. (Weber’s excellent. He should do more movies).

What David doesn’t have in Grapes is any grounding in reality. The only person with any semblance of grounding is Bierko’s wife, played by Robyn Peterman, and she disappears for long stretches of the running time. The film only runs ninety minutes, which just furthers the feeling it’s an elongated sitcom.

Oddly, had David really stretched it out, maybe turned it into a spoof of a mini-series, Grapes would have been a far greater success. While he introduces these characters with great humor potential, they never have time to do anything. Karen Sillas, for example, shows signs of giving a good performance, but her character is never interesting. She’s not developed enough to be funny.

A lot could have been resolved with a stronger director. David’s composition is adequate, but he doesn’t bring any ingenuity to it. Grapes‘s narrative structure is more like an early thirties comedy than anything modern–the morality play for laughs–and he can’t properly present it.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Written and directed by Larry David; director of photography, Victor Hammer; edited by Priscilla Nedd-Friendly; production designer, Charles Rosen; produced by Laurie Lennard; released by Columbia Pictures.

Starring Steven Weber (Evan Maxwell), Craig Bierko (Richie Maxwell), Viola Harris (Selma Maxwell), Karen Sillas (Joan), Robyn Peterman (Roberta), Matt Keeslar (Danny Pepper), Jennifer Leigh Warren (Millie), Orlando Jones (Digby), John Toles-Bey (Lee), Deidre Lovejoy (Nurse Wells), Richard Gant (Det. Crouch), Philip Baker Hall (Mr. Bell) and Kristin Davis (Riggs).

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