Sour Grapes

USA 1997

Reviewed by Andy Richards


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

Richie Maxwell and his cousin Evan, a brain surgeon, are spending the weekend with their girlfriends in Atlantic City. Having exhausted their gambling funds, Richie drops his last quarter into a fruit machine. Evan gives him two more quarters to have a chance of the big prize. Richie wins a jackpot of $436,214, but offers Evan only $1,000 to cover his gambling losses. Evan insists he's entitled to half of the jackpot. The cousins part acrimoniously.

Evan informs Richie that Richie has an inoperable brain tumour. Knowing his doting mother Selma will be devastated by his death, Richie plans a mercy killing for her. Richie instructs a friendly bum, Digby, to break into his mother's house. Selma collapses from shock, and is hospitalised. Evan calls the next day to tell Richie that the tumour was a joke. Evan botches an operation performed on television soap star Danny Pepper, accidentally emasculating him, which results in Pepper losing his job.

The cousins are both dumped by their girlfriends. Richie is told that Selma needs a brain operation. Richie begs Evan to do it. He successfully performs the operation - and asks for a fee of $218,000.

Returning home, Evan is confronted by Pepper. During the scuffle, the briefcase of money falls from the balcony; Digby finds it. When she discovers that Digby and his friends have moved into her house, Selma has a fatal heart attack. At her funeral, Selma's landlord gives Richie a hefty bill for damages; Richie gives Evan two quarters for a parking meter; and Digby arrives in an expensive car.


The feature debut of Larry David (co-creator with Jerry Seinfeld of the television sitcom Seinfeld), Sour Grapes provides dispiriting evidence that material rooted in the conventions of the 22-minute television sitcom is not easily accommodated to the expanses of a feature film. Deprived of the safety net of a laugh track and a regular audience's familiarity with established characters, Sour Grapes is painfully ill-conceived. Its premise - two cousins feuding over the fruit-machine jackpot both of them contributed money towards - is too flimsy a foundation. Its clumsy ragbag of themes and sub-themes - the venality of television networks, male sexual insecurities and so on - only demonstrates the film's lack of focus.

Presumably an ad hoc structure appeals to David because he has been constrained for so long by Seinfeld's tight format and the constant rapidity with which that show demanded new ideas. However, as a result, Sour Grapes lacks identity: its humour varies in tone erratically from the vulgar (a running gag has Craig Bierko's Richie fellate himself), to the self-consciously arch (there's a diversion about Eskimo court procedure) to the tired Jewish-mother material already familiar from Seinfeld itself.

Accidental emasculation aside, the film never attains the blackness of comedy for which David seems to be striving. It even opts unwisely for a brief parody of Seinfeld's ratings-rival Friends - Danny Pepper's excruciatingly smug show Guys and Gals - but this step out of the fictional world merely reminds viewers of the film's inadequacies.

Lacking stars, Sour Grapes satisfies itself with lesser-knowns Craig Bierko and Steven Weber, an uncharismatic duo who cannot sustain our interest in the blandly unsympathetic rival cousins they play. A curiously throwaway cameo from Philip Baker Hall (who was masterful in Paul Thomas Anderson's Hard Eight), and a severely underdeveloped role for Hal Hartley collaborator Karen Sillas as Evan's girlfriend Joan are also questionable. This kind of casting, perhaps designed to give the production a spurious US-indie flavour, seems redundant and wasteful in a film that fails to play as anything other than over-extended, low-brow television - an impression compounded by the unimaginative televisual style of static master shots jumping back and forth into close-ups. David will have work harder at extended play in future to escape his sitcom prison.


Laurie Lennard
Larry David
Director of Photography
Victor Hammer
Priscilla Nedd-Friendly
Production Designer
Charles Rosen
©Castle Rock Entertainment
Production Company
A Castle Rock Entertainment presentation
Executive Producer
Barry Berg
Associate Producer
Yoli Poropat
Production Co-ordinators
Brigette Lester
Atlantic City/New York:
Alexis Arnold
Production Managers
Barry Berg
Atlantic City/New York:
Richard Baratta
Location Manager
Ross C. Day
Post-production Supervisor
Tricia Miles
Assistant Directors
Daniel Silverberg
Ellie Smith
Maura T. McKeown
Atlantic City/New York:
Terry Ham
Script Supervisor
Harri James
Liberman/Hirschfeld Casting
Debby Gross
Sandy Holt
Camera Operator
Russell McElhatton
Aerial Operator
Atlantic City/New York:
Brian Heller
Steadicam Operator
Russell McElhatton
Digital Composites
D-Rez Hollywood
Senior Digital Artist:
Janice Tso
Digital Artist:
Heidy Hughes
Digital Production Co-ordinator:
Jená Burke
Digital Colour Timer:
Mathieu Reid
Special Effects Co-ordinator
Mike Thompson
Art Director
Chas Butcher
Set Designer
Stan Tropp
Set Decorator
Anne D. McCulley
Costume Designer
Debra McGuire
Costume Supervisor
Diane Crooke
Wardrobe Supervisors
Atlantic City/New York, Men:
David Dumais
Atlantic City/New York, Women:
Gail A. Fitzgibbons
Department Head:
Brad Wilder
Atlantic City/New York, Artist:
John Caglione Jr
Dione Taylor
Atlantic City/New York:
William A. Kohout
Pacific Title
Main Title Effects
The Chandler Group
Main Title Sequence Design
Phill Norman
Music Supervisor
Jonathan Wolff
Music Editor
Robert Garrett
Music Consultant
Arlene Fishbach
"Ballet Music from "Faust" by Charles Gounod, performed by
London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Richard Bonynge; "Adagio in C Major, BWV 564" by Johann Sebastian Bach, organ performed by Michael Murray; "Minuet op.11, no.5" by Luigi Boccherini, performed by Budapest Strings; "Ain't That a Kick in the Head" by Sammy Cahn, James Van Heusen, performed by Dean Martin; "Hungarian Dance No.7 in A" by Johannes Brahms, performed by London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Antal Dorati; "Gavotte" from "Mignon" by Ambroise Thomas, performed by Detroit Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Paul Paray; "Tales from the Vienna Woods" by Johann Strauss Jr; "Symphony #8" by Ludwig van Beethoven, performed by BRT Philharmonic Orchestra, Brussels, conducted by Alexander Rahbari; "Horn Concerto in E Flat, K495" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, performed by English Chamber Orchestra, conducted by Barry Tuckwell; "String Quartet in G Major op.18, #2", "String Quartet in F Major op.59, #1" by Ludwig van Beethoven, performed by Orford String Quartet; "La Gazza Ladra (The Thieving Magpie)", overture from "Barber of Seville" by Gioacchino Rossini, performed by Zagreb Festival Orchestra, conducted by Michael Halász; "Grandfather", "The Hunters Approach with Their Guns" from "Peter and the Wolf" by Sergei Prokofiev, performed by Czechoslovak Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Ondrej Lenård; "Peer Gynt Suite #1, op.46" by Edvard Grieg, performed by Ulster Orchestra, conducted by Vernon Handley; "String Quartet #15 in G Major, D 887" by Franz Schubert, performed by Melos Quartett; "Dance of the Hours" from "La gioconda" by Amilcare Ponchielli, performed by Budapest Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Andras Korodi; "Theme from Wheel of Fortune" by Merv Griffin; "I'll Catch You If You Fall (Guys and Gals Theme)" by Jonathan Wolff; "String Quartet in G, K516" by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, performed by Takacs String Quartet; overture and "Dance Boheme" from "Carmen" by Georges Bizet, performed by Ulster Orchestra, conducted by Yan Pascal Tortelier; "Frühlingslied" by Felix Mendelssohn, performed by Budapest Strings; "Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565" by Johann Sebastian Bach, performed by Michael Murray; overture from "Poet and Peasant" by Franz von Suppé, performed by Hungarian State Opera Orchestra, conducted by János Sándor
Sound Mixers
Robert Janiger
Atlantic City/New York:
Tom Nelson
Re-recording Mixers
Scott Millan
Brad Sherman
Jim Fitzpatrick
Supervising Sound Editor
David A. Whittaker
Sound Editors
Andrew G. Patterson
David Spence
Jim Matheny
Jeff Watts
Supervising Dialogue Editor
Avram D. Gold
Greg Steele
Paul Zydel
Supervising Editor:
Avram D. Gold
Robin Harlan
Sarah Monat
Carolyn Sauer
Randy K. Singer
Location Consultant
Atlantic City/New York:
Heidi Topper
Stunt Co-ordinator
Roydon Clark
Helicopter Pilot
Atlantic City/New York:
Al Cerullo
Steven Weber
Craig Bierko
Richie Maxwell
Matt Keeslar
Danny Pepper
Karen Sillas
Viola Harris
Robyn Peterman
Orlando Jones
Richard Gant
Detective Crouch
James MacDonald
Detective Frehill
Jack Burns
Scott Erik
teenage Richie
Michael Resnick
teenage Evan
Jennifer Leigh Warren
Anthony Parziale
blackjack dealer
Abraham Kessler
crap dealer
Fred Goehner
floor manager
Amy Hohn
Denise Bessette
cocktail waitress
Angelo Tiffe
Bari K. Willerford
truck driver
Alan Wilder
Hiram Kasten
male co-worker
Kari Coleman
female co-worker
Rosanna Huffman
Mr Bell's assistant
Philip Baker Hall
Mr Bell
Harry Murphy
anaesthesiologist 1
Deirdre Lovejoy
Nurse Wells
Iqbal Theba
Doctor Alagappan
Tamara Clatterbuck
Nurse Donato
Helen Anzalone
Nurse Jamison
Ann Guilbert
Mrs Drier
Harper Roisman
Mr Drier
Edith Varon
Jack Kehler
John Toles-Bey
Michael Krawic
Sonya Eddy
Nurse Loder
Jill Talley
Bryan Gordon
Rachel Crane
Julie Claire
Patrick Fabian
Kevin Shinick
Meredith Salenger
Kristin Davis
Larry David
Jon Hayman
Linda Wallem
TV producers
Ron West
Doctor Isner
Bruce Jarchow
Doctor Dean
Marvin Braverman
Arthur Chobanian
man in bar
Jack O'Connell
homeless man
Tucker Smallwood
anaesthesiologist 2
Mark Chaet
Doctor Michaels
Rande Leaman
hospital worker
Larry Brandenburg
James Gallery
Mr Lesser
Tom Dahlgren
Mr Havelock
Warner Bros Distributors (UK)
8,268 feet
91 minutes 52 seconds
Colour/Prints by Technicolor
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011