I decided for my first blog to settle on Butter, which Netflix has been pushing on me for a while now. It’s a 2011 comedy flick directed by Jim Field Smith and is the debut script by Jason Micallef.
I feel like the best thing to call this particular film is uneven. I will start off by saying I did laugh, I often enjoyed watching it and even teared up a touch at the albeit predictable climax of the film. However, I was repeatedly left underwhelmed and in the case of the Olivia Wilde storyline even scratching my head.
I have a feeling the flick wanted to be something not unlike the late nineties classics Election or Drop Dead Gorgeous. Both of which depict quirky characters from the midwest including a female antagonist who is hellbent on getting a somewhat insipid prize. However, this film lacked some of the dry humor that it’s predecessors had down in spades. It also didn’t go far enough with it’s quirk. It was as though the foundation for strong choices was there, but it got muddled with trying to make the characters likeable or perhaps identifiable. The exception being Kristen Schall who created a silly, weird, fun character that was often a scene stealer. In fact, if more characters had been as strange and offbeat and to use a theater term “committed to the moment” as hers it would have made for a more well rounded film. In an ensemble piece like this, it is the characters that create their own community and world. I was often left wondering where they were from even though I was told in no uncertain terms it was set in Iowa.
I loved that the protagonist was a young black girl who was trying to find her place in the world. Yara Shahidi’s Destiny was a strong character and often seemed to have more sense than some of the adults around her. This was shown mostly through her voice overs and it would have been nice to see some of her sarcastic sumermisements in scene as well. I thought the set up of her skill with the butter was natural and cute. And she had great chemistry with her foster dad Bill played by Rob Corddry. I think they worked well together and I believed that they were slowly becoming a family. However, it was this very storyline that made the film uneven. I wanted to see more of Destiny’s story. I found it compelling to see a young black girl navigate in a white community that while welcoming still treated her like an oddity. Telling her what high expectations they had of her with the implication that she was to be the black prodigy of their community. There were moments that touched on this quasi racist undertone, but didn’t explore the actuality of the expectations of the lone black girl in a white world. Now that’s a movie I want to see.
Laura Pickler was a purposefully annoying character who was cut throat and unlikeable. But that’s not why she was hard to watch. Jennifer Garner’s attempt at character acting was forced and unnatural. I don’t know if it was the whisper talking or the fact that she tends to end her sentences by holding her mouth open like a fish, but it was just annoying. Harkoning back to my earlier point about antagonists going after insipid prizes, by contrast Reese Witherspoon’s Tracy Flick was equally vile and certainly affected. But unlike Garner’s portrayal there was something real about her. I don’t mind hating a character, but I have to want to watch them too. I quickly became bored by Garner’s performance. I honestly wish I had something nicer to say about it.
Perhaps the most confounding of storylines was that of the stripper/hooker Brooke played by Olivia Wilde. Again I would have preferred an entire movie about this character as opposed to the one note and often random amalgamations of scenes that I got. If for no other reason, but to figure her out. She was all over the place, but because Olivia Wilde played her with intensity I was at last interested when she was on screen albeit often confused as to what her motivations were. I didn’t quite understand her hatred of Laura. Or her choice to bed Laura’s teenage step-daughter in order to track down her payment for sleeping with Laura’s husband Bob played by Ty Burrell. I found that part of the storyline icky and if the character had been a man I don’t think they would have gotten away with it. Nonetheless, Wilde was beguiling as always.
Ty Burrell was forgettable in this film as Bob. He played the henpecked husband a little too well and his storyline all, but disappeared by the third act. I wish I had more to say about him other then I believed he could carve masterpieces from butter blocks.
Alicia Silverstone had a small role as Destiny’s foster mother. She both conveyed the awkwardness of the situation as well as true caring for her foster child. She brought a believability to the character without portraying the “white saviour” trope that is often criticized in films where a white family adopts a black child. I felt she loved Destiny for Destiny and that Destiny saved her as much as the latter.
Hugh Jackman was much like Olivia Wilde’s Brooke in this movie. As a character, Boyd Bolton was both out of place and annoying. He was almost quirky enough to be considered a character. But mostly it just seemed like Wolverine got a haircut and a weird accent. I didn’t buy that he would be interested in Laura and that he would go to the lengths that he did to impress her. It just seemed like his entire storyline was forced. However, this may be because he was playing against Garner and her lack of character gave him less to play off of.
All in all I enjoyed the film. I may even watch it again. However, I am more ept to watch a darker or quirkier comedy then this particular one. I guess the best way to describe this film would be almost. It was almost good, almost funny, almost interesting, and almost worth suggesting to a friend.
I am on a mission to see if the movies that are “Popular on Netflix” are actually any good or if those are the ones that simply paid more for marketing.