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A lonely guy finds comic company

Jeff Garlin (above with Sarah Silverman) wrote, directed, and stars in an observant comedy about a lonely Chicago actor. Jeff Garlin (above with Sarah Silverman) wrote, directed, and stars in an observant comedy about a lonely Chicago actor. (Alberto Rodriguez/IFC First Take/AP)

On "Curb Your Enthusiasm," Jeff Garlin doesn't really register. That's understandable, since it's Larry David's show. But Garlin, who plays Larry's manager, seems immune to David's comical insensitivity, and the fury it can bring out in people. He's the only true human being on the show, which is probably why he doesn't stand out as a comedian. Maybe Garlin, a veteran of improv comedy, recognizes this and, as a remedy, has put himself at the center of the observantly funny film he's written and directed.

"I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With" is about James, a lonely Chicago actor. James is something of a sad case. He's 39 and shares an apartment with his mother. He overeats, is underemployed, and hasn't had sex in five years. In the first 10 minutes, his apparently platonic girlfriend dumps him, his mother insults him, and he complains about his latest gig, hosting a cruel "Punk'd"-style show. Some nights he drops by a convenience store for a snack, which he eats perched on the hood of his car. His favorite film is "Marty," that downer with Ernest Borgnine as a grown man whose roommate is his mother. It's unclear whether James has modeled his life on the movie, but it's clear no casting agent in town thinks he's right for a planned remake. (It's hilarious to whom the part does go.)

Garlin lays on the pitiful details fast and thick. But they're not heavy. The movie is remarkably light. James may not like his life, but mercifully he doesn't hate himself. And there's always a woman interested - two, actually. One is a dark 'n' bouncy weirdo, who, as you'd expect, is played by Sarah Silverman. The other is her opposite number, a blond, rambling schoolteacher played by Bonnie Hunt. They're both characteristically funny: Hunt is mock-serious but womanly; Silverman is adolescent and possibly evil.

"I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With" has the same conditional deals ("if you do x, then I'll do y") and loosely drawn sensibility as "Curb Your Enthusiasm." It all feels somehow mundane and surreal, such as when James runs into an old schoolmate who asks him to put on the pirate costume he's been wearing as advertisement for a hot dog joint so the schoolmate can run off to an audition.

If the comedy on "Curb" is situational, springing from Larry's antagonistic sense of propriety, the comedy in Garlin's movie blooms from real, less-abrasive emotions. James's sidekick, Luca (David Pasquesi), has a practical, calm nature that makes him the anti-Larry. They seem like actual friends.

Garlin's movie is beautiful in its own way. It also suggests that David's show would still be brilliant without the aggravation. I'm not saying that David should renounce misanthropy. But maybe he could curb less of Garlin's apparent enthusiasm for people.

Wesley Morris can be reached at wmorris@globe.com. For more on movies, go to boston.com/movie nation.

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I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With

Written and directed by: Jeff Garlin

Starring: Garlin, Sarah Silverman, and Bonnie Hunt

At: Coolidge Corner, Brookline

Running time: 80 minutes

Unrated

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