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Jerry Seinfeld is known to most people for his iconic hit television sitcom Seinfeld (1989-1998), but his latest web series Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is clearly his best work.
Interest in the show has been growing since its 2012 premiere, and the recent Seinfeld "reunion" tie-in with the Super Bowl has introduced many audiences to the show for the first time. The show, which streams on Crackle, is straightforward, and the brilliant title is not at all misleading. In each episode, Seinfeld and another comedian drive around in a classic car and share a cup of coffee. It's like a late night talk show but more genuine: Seinfeld chooses fellow comedians he is fond of, his guests aren't there to promote anything, and the conversations feel spontaneous and honest. Although we'll never know if the show is planned like other talk shows, there's a sense that the conversations are mostly improvised, and because Seinfeld's guests are fellow comedians, we trust that they aren't censoring themselves in front of the cameras as, say, a politician or movie star would.
Seinfeld's Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee is preferable to his famous sitcom because it is his purest artistic statement to date. At this point in his career, the respected comedian can do whatever he wants, and that he chooses to push the creative boundaries with each project is remarkable. In this case, Seinfeld offers a meta-commentary on the art of comedy. His encounters with guests like Louis C.K., Tina Fey, Chris Rock, and Larry David provide glimpses into the entertainment industry and the experience of being a professional comedian. More interestingly, they demonstrate what draws individuals to comedy in the first place. Comedy, Seinfeld and his guests suggest, is the ability to laugh at the absurdity of life and the irrational, meaningless experience of being in it. Whether it is Chris Rock's articulation of why bullying benefits children, Larry David's rant on why it doesn't matter whether he drinks coffee or tea, or Louis C.K.'s justification that he went into debt to buy a boat, there's a sentiment that none of it matters so they might as well laugh at it while they can.
Seinfeld has always been a brilliant observational comic, and most critics and fans deem his self-titled sitcom "a show about nothing." However, Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee is the ultimate show about nothing, but the irony is that as we follow Seinfeld and friends as they talk about the meaning of comedy and the meaning of life, nothing inadvertently becomes everything. It is doubtful that Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee will become as popular as Seinfeld, but as an artistic and comedic expression, it is by far Seinfeld's greatest achievement.
Attempting to delve into one of Tinseltown’s most curious scandals--the mysterious suicide (or was it?) of the original TV Superman actor George Reeves--the story begins after Reeves (Ben Affleck) is found dead of a seemingly self-inflicted gunshot wound during a late night party in his Benedict Canyon home. The case then unfolds through the eyes of Louis Simo (Adrien Brody) a street-smart publicity hungry private dick hired by Reeves’ grieving mother. As Simo slowly peels back the layers of Reeves’ seemingly glamorous life he discovers an actor of charm talent and sophistication whose every opportunity for a big break fizzled forcing him to lead a frustrated existence slumming in the superhero show he deemed beneath him. Gradually identifying with Reeves’ failed expectations for himself Simo discovers a host of candidates who may have actually pulled the trigger on the actor including his young party girl paramour (Robin Tunney) his longtime lover and patron (Diane Lane) and his lover’s husband a powerfully connected studio “fixer” (Bob Hoskins). It is Brody not Affleck who carries the bulk of the film on his shoulders and the Oscar winner delivers a finely etched turn as Simo who’s fractured potential mirrors Reeves’ but quite simply Simo’s story isn’t nearly as dark or engaging as Reeves’ life or the mystery surrounding his death. Affleck an actor who has had his share of ups downs duds and disappointments in Hollywood delivers one of his most charming and fully realized performances to date even if his spot-on recreation of Reeves’ speech pattern is a bit distracting. The luminous Lane’s acting talents remain in full blossom in a character she’s well-suited to play—the aging beauty fearing the road ahead—and she commands every scene she’s in. Unfortunately there should have been many many more of them. She’s almost criminally underused. Hoskins more menacing then ever and the reliable stable of supporting players like Joe Spano are all top-notch as well; only Tunney apparently trying to channel both Betty Boop and Bette Davis simultaneously seems a bit off her game as the wannabe femme fatale. Best known for his strong turns helming many of the best episodes of television series such as The Sopranos Sex and the City and Six Feet Under first time feature director Allen Coulter’s cool assured hand and meticulous recreation of Cold War Los Angeles are major bonuses here. Even when Simo’s story sags in comparison to Reeves’ Coulter keeps us interested particularly when staging the Rashomon-like sequences depicting the various theories behind Reeves’ demise. But by skimping on Reeves’ story in favor of a less compelling fictional framework built around a private detective investigating the case we never see one key suspect’s possible murder scenario enacted visually and it comes off as a glaring omission.