For my inaugural post on my new column, I chose a doozy. I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With had been sitting in my queue since 2007, the year I got Netflix. I am always on the prowl for a heartwarming and funny romantic movie (something that is becoming like a dinosaur in this day and age), so when I came across a movie that involved some really funny people, I thought why not? I added the movie only to forget about its existence moments later. It wasn’t until 2014 did I decide to actually sit down and watch it. And man do I regret wasting a space for all of these years on this movie.
The story follows James (Jeff Garlin) as he moves through his loser comedian life. He lives with his mother, hasn’t had sex in five years and through the course of the movie fails literally everything he tries. He consoles his wounded soul with eating. He falls into a “relationship” with Beth (Sarah Silverman) who uses him for his body. He obsesses over the casting of a new version of Marty, and he talks to a school room full of children where he meets Stella (Bonnie Hunt). All of these events culminate into nothing really occurring on-screen.
What bums me out about this movie is that it should be good. It has all of the elements of really insightful and funny romantic comedy that falls unbelievably short of being anything at all. Although it features an amazing cast, full of bright improvisers from the Second City scene and a good protagonist, it just feels like a sub par episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm. For instance James visits the same all night convenience store several times throughout the movie. Each time he visits the person behind the counter gives him grief about his overeating. The first time he does it, James launches into a stand up like monologue that makes no sense. It is like a red curtain, a spotlight and microphone suddenly came on-screen. For a movie that is supposed to be realistic in nature, it is jarring to watch. This isn’t the only time that this type of stiffness throws you off. Almost every interaction James has with people feel like an improvised sketch or a stand up routine. It just all seems fake and forced. In other words you see the strings. You can see where Jeff Garlin, who wrote and directed this film as well as starred in it, was laughing to himself as he thought of bits. He needed someone to bounce ideas off of and someone to tell him no. He also needed someone outside of the improvising world that could give him some perspective on story structure and dramatic moments. We all need someone like that in our lives. It seems Garlin has no one.