September 27, 2007

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I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With (NR)
Jeff Garlin plays a schlubbier version of his Curb Your Enthusiasm alter ego Jeff Greene (Larry David’s friend and manager) in I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With, a light but funny movie Garlin wrote and directed himself.

James (Garlin) is a chubby, funny man (“That shirt makes you look fat,” his mother says. “That’s because I am fat,” James says. “If anything, I make the shirt look fat.”). He lives with his mom and has a gig at Second City but otherwise struggles for work in part because he’s reluctant to leave Chicago. He claims he would rather not work than do crap — which is the reason he drops his role on a Punk’d-like TV show that had him telling unsuspecting victims that they had long-lost children or that their partner was unfaithful. I just want someone to eat cheese with, someone to love, he tells Beth (Sarah Silverman), a young ice cream parlor barista who either takes an immediate liking to James or is crazy. Or both — what else could be the explanation for her decision to take James, a man she’d really only just met, with her to shop for underwear? James, to his credit, isn’t sure what to make of this either. Is he the luckiest man alive? Or is she minutes away from some kind of “episode”?

Potentially more suitable for him is Stella (Bonnie Hunt), the elementary school teacher of his friend’s daughter’s class. While speaking to the kids on career day, he rambles about his go-nowhere career but rescues himself with a series of doody and booger jokes — doody always kills.

To some extent, not much happens in this movie. We see a man who’s unsure of what to do with his life, addicted to rice pudding, unwilling to let go of a comfortable situation (as demonstrated by his continued residence in his mother’s apartment and his unwillingness to give up a great parking space even though it is far from his house). We hear his conversations with his friend, which also tend to be more or less about nothing. We listen to his continuing rants that they shouldn’t remake the movie Marty and, if they are going to remake it, he should be in it. Not much sticks after this movie is over but it’s hilarious while you’re watching it. We watch him trip though romantic and potentially romantic misadventures, all of which are just awkward and strange enough to feel real.

Though Garlin wasn’t a Seinfeld writer, perhaps from his years with Larry David or perhaps because the men just share a particular self-effacing, observational, wry sense of humor, I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With has a very Seinfeldian feel. Garlin’s George, maybe, if he had been kinder, more self-aware and more charming.

As Garlin pulls off the trifecta here (writing, directing, acting), it probably helps to be a fan when you sit down to spend an hour and a half with him. I am and I enjoyed hanging out with Garlin, listening to him riff as you might with a good friend with whom you have little new to discuss but plenty of material to go over. B

Not rated. Written and directed by Jeff Garlin, I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With is an hour and 24 minutes long and is distributed in limited release by First Take, IFC Films. The movie also appears in the “IFC in Theaters” option on Comcast On-Demand and costs $5.99.