Monday, March 30, 2009

The Cheese Stands Alone

Genre: Sorta Romantic Comedy
Synopsis: A loveless man who believes he's dying meets a woman that turns his life upside-down.
About: Huge spec sale back in the early 90s. 1 million dollars. Yet the movie still hasn't been made.
Writer: Kathy McWorter

Some people would tell you that the day The Cheese Stands Alone sold is the day the spec sale died. Why would anyone pay a million dollars, the rationale went, for a script with the word "cheese" in it? I can buy cheese at the store for $2.79. It was the height of the spec sale boom, and the suits were like, we're now shelling out a million bucks for regular old movies with people talking? There's no real hook in The Cheese Stands Alone. And in a heartbeat, the rats in Hollywood were second-guessing themselves. Get it? Rat? Cheese?

Do you blame The Cheese Stands Alone? Or was this actually a solid script that deserved the attention it received? If so, why has it never been made into a movie? Or an even better question: Why did that dreadful Jeff Garlin movie "I Want Someone To Eat Cheese With", which was worth about $19.99, get made before this million dollar beheamoth? The answers are in the review...

I felt it was appropriate to put myself in the right state-of-mind, so I went out and bought several types of cheese. American Cheese, Swiss Cheese, Velvetta cheese. I wanted to become one with the cheese. In all honesty, I was preparing myself for a complete disaster. I just couldn't wrap my head around the idea that a script with the word "cheese" in the title was any good. Brie cheese.

Never-been-in-love Vinnie (think a young mopey John Travolta) thinks he's going to die because an x-ray taken on a routine doctor's visit shows a large black splotch where his heart is supposed to be. He's convinced it's "a saw" and that he has weeks to live. The doctors try to convince him it's a smudge, but he retorts with, "Doctors are paid to make you think everything's fine." So now Vinnie thinks he's dying. He heads home where his rather eccentric New York family, mom, grandma, grandma's boyfriend, and a 15 year old kid who's had sex with every woman in New York, become convinced that Vinnie's old fiance, Delia, has put a death curse on him for breaking off their engagement 3 years ago. Munster Cheese.

But their ruminations are quickly interrupted by his grandma's surprise blind date she's set him up with. The buxom, gorgeous, mysterious Naomi enters, and quickly grabs Vinnie for a night out. Vinnie, thinking he's dying, spends every second of the date whining about his imminent death. Noami seems to be the complete opposite, throwing caution to the wind and living every second to its fullest. It makes for an awkward yet hilarious night out. Cheese whiz.

In the meantime, the mother storms over to the local grocery store, where Delia (the ex-fiance) works. Delia is even hotter than Naomi, and she knows it. She's still bitter about 3 years ago so when Vinnie's mom comes in demanding she release the curse on her son, Delia gives her a mouthful. Now even though Delia hates Vinnie's guts, she also can't stand the thought that he doesn't like her. Which means she'd do anything to have him back. So she goes along with the "curse" accusation, and claims that she will not release it unless Vinnie marries her. Cheddar cheese.

That's the basic set-up for the film. And you know what? It's fucking hilarious. This is the perfect example of a script I was supposed to hate but couldn't. A perfect example that if you craft a good story, it doesn't matter what genre it's in, it's going to entertain. The Cheese Stands Alone stands alone because it's about the characters. And McWorter is so good at creating intriguing memorable characters with wonderful dialogue, that it's one of those rare occasions where you never have to go back and double-check who someone is. As soon as they speak you immediately know them.

If there's one movie I couldn't stand, it was My Big Fat Greek Wedding - for numerous reasons that I don't feel like getting into. But if you were going to compare "Cheese" to any film, that would probably be the one. Yet this movie succeeds in every area that that movie failed. Every page is bursting with charm. It's got more heart than all the films of 2008 put together. It's completely authentic. Which leaves me scratching my head as to why it hasn't been made. You could make this thing for 30 million bucks and it would gross 100 mil without breaking a sweat. If I became a studio head tomorrow, this is the first movie I'd add to my slate. I'm not kidding!

sorta related article of the day: The Golden Years.

[ ] trash
[ ] barely readable
[ ] worth the read
[x] impressive
[ ] genius

What I learned: A good mystery can take a very simple story and completely transfix the audience. In the story, after Vinnie leaves with Naomi (the girl Vinnie's grandma set him up with through a friend of a friend of a friend), the grandma makes a call only to find out that the real date was sick and couldn't make it. Which begs the question: Who the hell is Naomi? This is a choice the writer makes. She didn't have to do this. The movie still would've been interesting if Naomi *had* been the girl the grandma set him up with. But since she isn't, in addition to wondering how the date will go, we are now ravenously wondering who the hell Naomi is. And how the hell did she know to show up in place of this other girl? Sure, this isn't a thriller. It isn't a conspiracy film. It's a film about a man who hasn't found love. Yet adding this distinct and interesting mystery adds a whole new layer. Simple but extremely effective.