I have 498 movies in my Netflix Instant queue. I tend to watch one thing for every five that I add, but now my library is close to being full and I have to make room. So, every Monday I’m going to pick a random movie out of my queue and review the shit out of it. But (like Jesus), I’m also thinking of you and your unwieldy queue and all the movies in it you want to watch but no longer have the time to now that you’ve become so awesome and popular. Let me know what has been gathering digital dust in your Netflix Instant library and I’ll watch that, too. One Monday for you and the next for me and so on. Let’s get to it.
What’s the movie? Butter (2011)
What’s it rated? Rated R dick injuries, the crazy ass shit that comes out of Olivia Wilde’s mouth and the unconscionable choice to politicize butter carving.
Did people make it? Written by Jason A. Micallef. Directed by Jim Field Smith. Acted by Jennifer Garner, Ty Burrell, Yara Shahidi, Olivia Wilde, Ashley Greene, Rob Corddry, Kristen Schaal, Alicia Silverstone, Pruitt Taylor Vince, Andy Daly and Hugh Jackman.
What’s it like in one sentence? Election meets American Beauty but even more whimsical.
Why did you watch it? Chewer Jonathan Parker called it a gem and I like things that sparkle.
What’s it about in one paragraph? Bob Pickler (Burrell) is a butter sculpting genius. His Last Supper sculpture changed lives and is considered true art by the butternista’s of the rural Iowa town the film takes place in. But, as reigning champion, the local butter authorities tell Bob he should hang up his carving knives and let someone else win for a change. Enter Bob’s wife Laura (Garner), an extremely ambitious woman who has dreams of the Senate or even the Presidency one day because of their butter powered fame. When it’s time for the county’s butter carving competition, Laura enters going head to head with a butter groupie (Schaal), an intensely angry stripper (Wilde) and an honest to goodness Magical Negro (Shahidi). Who will come out on top? It’s anyone who has ever seen a movie’s guess.
Play or remove from my queue? SPOILERS… You know what one of my pet peeves in movies is? When a character who is an absolute monster for an entire film is given one little speckle of grace at the very end and the audience is supposed to sigh a collective “D’awwwwwwww” and be happy some bullshit lesson was learned. Jennifer Garner’s character Laura in Butter is awful: she’s a cruel hypocrite, a cheater, a bully and just a nasty stain on human existence all around. In the final few minutes of Butter, Laura doesn’t act like a troll for about 15 seconds and the music triumphantly swells as if we’re supposed to be moved by her (public) display of humanity. And don’t get me wrong: I love me a multifaceted character, but not in service of a sappy, unearned ending to a film that had built up quite a bit of goodwill leading up to that moment.
That’s the biggest problem with Butter. It’s a hot, tonally schizophrenic mess with one moment filled with warmth, heart and humor butting up against archetypal characterization, shallow storytelling and a dry squelch of an ending. Every time Olivia Wilde’s rage filled stripper (Brooke) opens her mouth, we’re given a golden shower of warm, blissful awesome, yet at the same time her motivations for any of her actions make little sense. Yara Shahidi gives a nice little performance as Destiny, a hard luck orphan who is also a butter carving savant and the one true voice of reason in a town filled with nutters. But Destiny isn’t remotely a real character, she’s just the stereotypical Magical Negro who exists to hand down life lessons from atop Non-judgemental Mountain. Ty Burrell brings the exact same goofy warmth he brings to Modern Family, but the idea of his character still being with Garner’s is insulting to an audience that is meant to empathize with him. If this was a Wayan’s Brother’s movie then I probably wouldn’t pay attention to most of this.
The supporting cast is also adds an extra layer of excellence to a script that sometimes calls for it and other times sounds like an early episode of Raymond. Kristen Schaal is a joy as usual even though she’s playing the same character that she does on Conchords. Rob Corddry brings a wholesome decency that you really don’t get to see him play much anymore since he only gets cast as “Smug Douche” these days. Alicia Silverstone, Hugh Jackman and Ashley Greene aren’t given much to do, but Jackman really brings charm to what is basically a cartoon character and Greene is awfully good looking even though she weird’s me out (doesn’t she look 16 in some movies and 30 in others??). That such an excellent cast was assembled for such a mixed bag of a movie is a disappointment. At the very least, Director Jim Field Smith brings a lively eye to the proceedings and keeps the movie rolling along before you can get bored. I hesitantly recommend the film for some true moments of greatness and for the absolutely film stealing performance of Olivia Wilde.
Do you have a favorite line? Wilde leaves a room in a huff calling Garner a cunt on her way out. Schaal so very quietly says “I haven’t heard that word since my father died.” I lost it.
How’s the music? The score is mostly made up of generic hip hop beats that sound stolen from RJD2′s unreleased b-sides collection, but the found music is much more successful. Little Secrets by Passion Pit and Go Do by Jonsi both elevate the moments of the film they’re in, while the typical Americana selections fit pretty damned well.
Do you have an interesting fun-fact? Jim Carrey almost played the Ty Burrell role. That would have been worth it to see the more reserved Garner play off of Carrey’s elestic mug.
What does Netflix say I’d like if I like this? Jeff, Who Lives at Home (I thought this was a lovely Duplass Bros. Joint), The Best and the Brightest (stars NPH AND Amy Sedaris and I’ve never heard of it? I feel like a failure), Goats (I tried to watch this and it didn’t grab me), Extract (Not bad) and The Babymakers (been meaning to watch this due to my Paul Schneider love).
What does Jared say I’d like if I like this? Any of the myriad of other butter carving films. They have a section for them at my local Blockbuster now.
What is Netflix’s best guess for Jared? 3.5
What is Jared’s best guess for Jared? 2.0
Can you link to the movie? That seems fair.
Any last thoughts? I was pretty harsh on Butter and it deserved it, but there are moments of pure gold sprinkled throughout. You could do worse with your time.
Did you watch anything else this week? Expendables 2 (no surprises) and REC 3 (fun, but couldn’t sustain the tension).
Any spoilerish thoughts about last week’s film, Klown?
Too much boy penis.
Next Week? The Sound of Noise!