Jeff Garlin, the second funniest thing about Larry David's very funny Curb Your Enthusiasm, writes, directs and stars in his first feature film, a loose but amiable portrait of a poor soul who can't seem to make his life work the way he'd like.
James Aaron (Garlin) is 39-years-old, overweight, out of shape and still living with his mother (Mina Kolb, who plays Garlin's mother on Curb) in her small Chicago apartment, not because he has to or even really wants to, but because it's just easier that way. After 20 years in "the business," James' career isn't a total wash-out -- he's a member of Chicago's prestigious Second City improvisational comedy troupe -- but he's still waiting for the break he needs to make it as an actor. His agent (Richard Kind) tells him he's too fussy for a Chicago actor, and drops him after James walks off a sadistic hidden-camera TV show called "Smear Job." His agent's sister (Rebecca Sage Allen), who James had sort of been dating, also drops him, and she was the closest James had gotten to actually having sex with another person in five years. James is terrible at reading the signals put out by interested women, like elementary school teacher Stella (Bonnie Hunt), an alleged "chubby chaser" whom he meets in a used record store, and James simply assumes the women he's attracted to find him too fat to ever date. James admits to his best friend, Luca (David Pasquesi), that he likes them young and insane, and proves his point by getting involved with Beth (Sarah Silverman), a pretty young nutcase who flatly propositions James in an ice cream parlor by asking him if he's ever had something called a "hoagie shack." But what's really tearing James Aaron apart is the fact that a production company is remaking Marty, Paddy Cheyevsky's bittersweet drama about an overweight guy who tries to escape from under the thumb of his domineering mother. James is incensed that his agent never even sent him out on an audition: After all, James practically is about as close to a real-life Marty as anyone is likely to get.
In an early scene, James returns home to his mother's apartment to find her watching Jackie Gleason performing his famous "Poor Soul" routine on TV, and in many respects Garlin has created just such a character: a sweet, likeable guy for whom nothing really seems to turn out right. Like Curb Your Enthusiasm, the film Garlin has constructed around this persona feels largely improvised, has a bit of an insider feel that may leave those of us who exist outside the insular world of the comedy circuit wondering what it's all about. Certain scenes -- the like one featuring Garlin and Silverman in a local supermarket -- are little more than improv routines written into Garlin's script, while others feature fellow comics like Amy Sidaris and Wallace Langham performing bits of shtick for the camera. None of it really adds up to much but it's smart, low-key fun -- terrible title and dangling preposition notwithstanding. leave a comment --Ken Fox