What Larry David’s HBO movie is about (yes, it’s ‘Curb'-esque)

Larry David
(Paul Buck/EPA)

EXCLUSIVE: On Wednesday, HBO made official The Times’ report from last week that the network was acquiring Larry David’s film to produce and air on its network.

David, as is his wont on his HBO comedy “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” has been highly secretive about the untitled project, declining even to disclose an industry-standard logline. At the Television Critics Assn. announcement this week, HBO executives made just one thing clear--that it is “not a ‘Curb’ movie.’”

But we’ve come upon a current copy of the project—about 40 pages, it’s somewhere between a treatment and a script—and the truth is that it does read a lot like a plot you might find on “Curb.” That’s a good thing, since that means it’s also outrageous and funny.

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Like “Curb,” parts of the film will be improvised, so don’t be surprised if it changes somewhat by the time it hits the screen. And part of the joy of any Larry David project is discovering it for yourself. So if you’d prefer to be surprised, please don’t read any further.

If you don’t, here goes…

The plot concerns a marketing executive named Lenny (David) who is helping to market a new electric car. Because he objects to the name (it’s “the Howard,” after “The Fountainhead’s” Howard Roark), Lenny gets into a fight with the creator, a colleague named Haney, and in a fit of Davidian pique gives Haney back his stake in the project.

This being a David story line, the car of course goes on to become a huge success, making Haney absurdly wealthy and leaving Larry out of the money (shades of George in “Curb’s” faux-"Seinfeld"reunion, forfeiting all the cash he had made on a public-toilet app to a Bernard Madoff scheme).

Having lost his wife, house and everything else, including his hair (it wouldn’t be a Larry David project without a baldness joke), Lenny moves to Martha’s Vineyard. Years later we find him as a lowly paid assistant to an elderly woman, living incognito with a different look under the assumed name Rolly.

But his life is soon shaken up when Haney, fabulously successful and not recognizing his former co-worker, shows up, prompting Lenny/Rolly to hatch a plan to exact revenge.

This all happens relatively early on, and to say what direction it all goes would be to spoil the fun. But let’s just say there are, as with all things Larry David, cosmic coincidences and karma-is-a-beast turns.

And though there is none of the Hollywood parlor game that exists on “Curb,” the main character is instantly recognizable as the man David plays in the HBO hit--an irksome schlemiel who is his own worst enemy (but whom you somehow root for anyway).

Lenny/Rolly has a bizarre insistence on strange innovations he’d like to see (like a “pee flap” for the car that allows motorists to relieve themselves while driving). He has a persistent inquisitiveness about why society does things the way it does (e.g., putting electrical outlets out of sight) and a compulsive need to nitpick to waitresses and other members of the serving class.

He also has a tendency to bring out anger in other people, but, as he does on “Curb,” still manages to bamboozle one woman into liking him—for a while, anyway.

(There is also, it should be said, a long-running off-color joke about the classic-rock band the Eagles--and, notably, a suggestion that in at least one scene some of the band members will appear as themselves.)

The “Curb” connection makes sense when you consider that David is working with a trio of writers who frequently collaborate with him on the show, in addition to film director Greg Mottola and “Mad Men” actor Jon Hamm.

“Curb” fans will eat all this up, which is why it’s a little puzzling that HBO executives are putting distance between this and the show. “Curb” isn’t returning to HBO anytime soon, but we’ll get something similar in tone and spirit, only this time in movie form.


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