Everyone believes that they know the lives of celebrities from their social media. But what if you discovered that you knew one of them before they were famous and wanted to contact them again?
Written and directed by Scott Abrahamson, Eat Wheaties! tells the story of Sid Straw (Tony Hale), an everyman who is frequently shunned by his friends and family for being ‘weird’. When he stumbles onto an old college photo of himself and star Elizabeth Banks, Side feels rejuvenated and can’t wait to tell his friends. Unfortunately, they refuse to believe their relationship and Sid attempts to reach the actress via social media. However, when his quest to reconnect with Banks becomes public, Sid feels the fallout from those around him as they push him even further away.
Balancing silliness and sadness, Eat Wheaties! carries a charm and sweetness that works well. Built on solids performances by its cast, Abrahamson has fairly good impulses about when to let his them shine. Though playing smaller roles, veterans Paul Walter Hauser, Alan Tudyk and the vastly underrated Rizwan Manji all show off their comedic talents when given the opportunity. (Note to screenwriters though: the world always needs more Sarah Chalke.)
Ultimately however, the success of the film rests on Hale’s shoulders. Regardless of what role he plays, Hale always brings an affability and purity to his characters (even his more villainous ones) and that certainly plays well in this role. As loveable loser Sid, Hale plays him with simplicity but never stupidity. Though frustrated and seemingly unable to connect with others, Sid remains intelligent and innocent and never goes ‘full Bluth’.
Strangely, the best chemistry he has onscreen is with the elusive Banks as he attempts to reconnect with her. To write these scenes requires a delicate touch as they could easily come off as creepy yet Hale and Abrahamson keeps them from ever straying into that territory. In fact, there’s such an honesty in his online blogging that the film almost plays out as a ‘will they/won’t they’ scenario between Hale and Banks. While there is no romantic tension between the two characters, Wheaties! leaves legitimate question as to whether they will connect and builds anticipation for resolution.
In many ways, Wheaties! is a cry for both community and self-realization. As he struggles to find a place where he fits in, Sid becomes increasingly lonely. Completely undervalued by his family and friends, Sid is looking for anything that might awaken them to his ‘importance’. While the revelation that he was once friends with Elizabeth Banks brings back pleasant memories at first, the negative response that he receives from others taints the experience and causes him to fixate on it. To Sid, his past with Banks becomes a form of justification about his value yet it also drives others away who already viewed him as strange. (Incidentally, Wheaties! also becomes an interesting commentary on our own obsession with connecting with celebrities online. As we message celebrities and beg for retweets/likes, so too do we also reveal our own interest at touching fame, even if many stars pass off responsibility for their social connections.)
However, this social isolation also provides opportunity for Sid to begin to work on himself. As things begin to unravel around him, Sid begins to take charge of his life and break free from the self-doubt that has been holding him back. Though painful, his hardship provides a chance for him to grow and take control of his life for the first time. Meanwhile, he also grows in his ability to maintain healthy relationships. Emotionally healthy himself, he also begins to create a new community that is supportive of him (and that he can support).
Though funny and charming, Eat Wheaties! also carries an important message. At a time when social networking drives our relationships, the film shows the need we have to connect with one another. However, as a result of Sid’s journey, Abramson’s script shows that there is a mutual need between self-growth and maintaining healthy relationships as well
Eat Wheaties! is now available on VOD.