Saturday, January 5, 2013

Day Five - Butter, or "Wow. Shockingly Good Cinema About Sweetened Lard."

Watching the trailer for Butter quite a few months back, I knew that I really wanted to see the film, but I've been burned by seductive trailers before. That is the often broken promise given to us by marketing departments in studio after studio. The trailer is there just to get your butt in the seat and that's all, so lies and deception are almost expected whole-heartedly.

Still... the trailer for Butter gave me hope... and, oddly enough, it delivered on most of it's promises.

One of said promises was Olivia Wilde. Pretty much any role she chooses to play, I'll be there to watch if given the opportunity. I am an utterly unashamed fanboy of hers thanks to House and Tron:Legacy.

The other of said promises was actual thoughtful comedy. It's not highbrow or anything. You don't have to have a degree in standup or The Complete Works of Woody Allen and Mel Brooks (No Relation), but it's also doesn't "pander to the lowest common something or other." There are biting, if obvious, jabs at both the left and the right... even if you can tell which way the overall slant is.

This is all not to say that it doesn't have it's flaws. The premise is silly, but not ridiculous enough to wash away how uncomfortably real it all is. I mean, with something like The Campaign or The Hangover, there's a certain amount of incredulity that makes those films more palatable. It's also just a bit too ridiculous to maintain the warmth and relatability of films like Grumpy Old Men. Butter sits somewhere in the middle, and in doing so, is caught between two ideals... not serving either very well.

Maybe that's too harsh. Maybe Butter is it's own thing and should be judged as such, but this is the way I feel.

In any case, very solid (if mellow) performances by many of the folks involved, including: Alicia Silverstone, Rob Corddry, Ty Burrell, Kristen Schall, and Phyllis Smith. I say (in parenths) that they're mellow due to the fact that even Rob Corddy's much deserved meltdown is pretty tame.

Also, I've seen Jennifer Garner is this character before. She does a good job, don't get me wrong, but it feels old hat.

I think my main disappointment was also my original draw to the film. Olivia. It's not that she didn't bring it, it's just that there wasn't exactly all that much to bring. She didn't have really enough to work with, and her brief interactions needed expanding for her character to have more worth other than just a convenient foil. It just didn't feel like she had enough skin in the game (ironic, considering she's a stripper here) for her to really care all that much and do the things she does, especially towards the end of the film.

It would be unfair not to give props to relative newcomer Yara Shahidi, who plays butter sculptor Destiny and has worked mostly television before this. She trades off narration duties with Ms.Garner over the length of the film and her commentary is a nice offset to the stereotyped Mama Grizzly character of her opponent.

All in all, Butter is a pretty solid flick. Perhaps a little too overzealous with the cracks at the Christian Right and not the best film I've seen all year, but certainly pretty safe.

Not quite gripping satire, not quite heartwarming slice-of-life, it's a fairly tame, yet still pleasingly entertaining. I definitely recommend it, even through its flaws.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

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