Boston's Alternative Source! image!

R: ARCHIVE, S: MOVIES, D: 04/23/1998,

Sour Grapes

Maybe Jerry Seinfeld is actually a warm, caring person who brings a teensy bit of humanity to his sit-com -- because his show's co-creator, Larry David, is definitely one sick bastard. Left on his own to write and direct his first feature, David has come up with a quirky, mostly amoral, often very funny film. Anyone familiar with Seinfeld's George (who's based on David) won't be surprised to hear that Sour Grapes is about selfishness and money -- namely the jackpot Richie (Craig Bierko) wins in an Atlantic City slot machine with two quarters he borrowed from his cousin Evan (Wings' Steven Weber).

As the two bicker over the winnings -- the loud, condescendingly charming Richie becoming louder and vicious, and the low-key, proper Evan becoming sneaky and vicious -- they bring ruin on their lives, their girlfriends, and especially Richie's relentlessly kvetching mother. A dead ringer for George's mom, she's a page out of the Seinfeld playbook, as are the awkward and bizarre exchanges of dialogue, the picking apart of words and minutiae, and the oddly small-town feel of New York City. But here David has time to build the tension without always going for the joke -- though there is a repeated gag about Richie's ability to blow himself. Yes, it's now clear who came up with the idea of George's fiancée licking the poisonous wedding invitations. At the Copley Place and the Circle and in the suburbs.

-- Mark Bazer