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May 3, 2008

DVD REVIEW: I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With


By Stephen Silver

Comedian Jeff Garlin, best known for playing Larry David’s tubby agent sidekick Jeff Greene on HBO’s Curb Your Enthusiasm, steps into the spotlight in the indie comedy I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With.


The movie, which Garlin wrote, directed and stars in, comes to DVD this week after a brief theatrical run last year, and is a must for anyone who likes Garlin, Curb, sweet romantic comedy and (most of all) the city of Chicago.


A small movie in just about every sense, I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With is a slight, 80-minute, stream-of-consciousness slice-of-life comedy about a character pretty clearly close to Garlin himself. The comic plays James, a struggling, overweight 39-year-old actor in Chicago who lives with his mother and takes sporadic work with a “Candid Camera”-like TV show, as well as the famed Second City comedy troupe.


James seems to be failing at everything in life until he meets Beth (Sarah Silverman), a girl who seems interested in him for reasons he can’t quite understand. Their flirtation provides the film with its title and much of its sweetness, which thankfully never really crosses the line into sentimentality.


The role represents a triumph for Silverman, as for once she escapes her tired more-shocking-than-thou persona. But the character’s failure is in the writing. Garlin writes her as, for lack of a better word, a complete lunatic. While the movie is likely autobiographical and the character probably is based on someone Garlin really knows, the character is still somewhat hard to believe.


Regardless, Cheese does all the little things right. It includes funny supporting performances from all sorts of actors associated with Second City and/or Garlin himself, from Bonnie Hunt to Richard Kind to Dan “Homer Simpson” Castellaneta to Mina Kolb (who played Garlin’s mother on Curb and does again here). The incidental music seems borrowed from Curb itself, and one particularly canny joke has Garlin trying out for a remake of the 1950s classic Marty, a movie with a plot nearly identical to that of Cheese itself.


Perhaps best of all is the movie’s treatment of Chicago. It might be the best cinematic travelogue of the Windy City since Ferris Bueller’s Day Off 20 years ago. Among other great Chicago touches, Garlin finds a great parking space in the shadow of Wrigley Field – so he keeps his car there for what seems like months, even though he lives far away.


I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With isn’t the funniest or most legendary or memorable movie ever made, but considering how awful most Hollywood comedies are these days, its DVD is well worth a rental, especially if you’re a fan of Curb or Jeff Garlin.  


© 2008 North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.


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