Jeff Garlin’s “Cheese” Finally Puts His Talent in the Spotlight

Not Rated, 80 minutes, IFC Films

Jeff Garlin is a longtime comedian that has always been best known for his supporting work alongside artists of greater recognition, most notably as Larry David’s sidekick in the fantastic HBO show, Curb Your Enthusiasm, a program that continually reminds me that hope does indeed remain for originality on television. It is always apparent that Garlin has comedic skills and is a natural at finding the right notes for making people laugh, which in all great comic’s cases is unveiled through exposing one’s weaknesses. In Curb, they make constant note of his extreme overweight figure and it provides frequent gold every time. Still, even getting a fair amount of notoriety and screen time on a show like that, he is ultimately overshadowed by a good amount of memorable recurring characters. I developed a lot of curiosity and even a fair amount of anticipation when I heard that Garlin was getting a shot at a writing, directing and starring in I Want Someone To Eat Cheese With, a romantic comedy that goes even further in putting his weight issues on display. I wasn’t surprised that this film was worth watching, but I was extremely delighted by the fact that it was even more than that; it was memorable, funny, and even touching.

Doing what Larry David essentially does with Curb, Garlin writes what is basically his real self into the lead role, only changing bits and pieces of the person to make it a fictional being living in this film. He plays James, an actor/comedian that, as he approaches the middle ages of life’s roller coaster, continues to find himself empty in the search for real acting jobs and a real relationship with someone who can accept him for what he is. He continues to live with his widowed mom in her small Chicago apartment, probably because his drought of real gigs cannot pay for himself to live solo, although he will tell you that he does it because she doesn’t want him to leave and he simply couldn’t bear the thought of her being alone without someone to care for her. His mother, played by Mina Kolb (who also acts as his mother in Curb), is seemingly the only person in his life that supports his escalating eating habits, something he finds both comforting and detrimental toward his fight to stop it. Garlin does a fantastic job on the screenplay, simply choosing to show James adventuring throughout the streets, ice cream parlors, comedy workshops, and delicatessens of Chicago as he hopes to right the ship that is himself and his many dilemmas.

The film runs to a fitting, compact 80 minutes of runtime which Garlin fills with many subtle moments of sharp dialog and terrific supporting players. In a small budgeted film of this short, the casting of known names is pretty much relying on the good relationships that its writer/director have developed over the years, and Garlin has brought a lot of talent to the film. Among the cast in support of its creator is Bonnie Hunt, Sarah Silverman, the aforementioned Mina Kolb, Dan Castellaneta, Amy Sedaris, Paul Mazursky, and David Pasquesi. Curb watchers will notice a ton of faces from that show that appear in Cheese, all playing similar parts from the show but toned down into more semi-serious, believable circumstances. Also seeing something in this script and helping to bring it to the screen was Harold Ramis, who acts as an executive producer on the film. It is obvious that it was a long and hard journey to even pitch the idea of Garlin not only writing and directing, but starring in a film. There were a lot of dedicated talents in the comedy arts that aided Garlin in getting this film past the paper and onto film and ultimately video shelves, and in a time when the American comedy is almost wholly suffering for original ideas, this is one to check out.

8.5/10


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