Monday, February 4, 2013

Movie Review: Butter

Recently, I watched a Midwestern comedy entitled Butter.  Despite the movie getting crap reviews from critics, I found it to be entertaining.

The premise of the movie is that a man named Bob Pickler is a butter sculptor in Iowa decides to end his 15 year long winning streak and let someone else try and win the title.  His ambitious and overbearing wife Laura, played by Jennifer Garner, has other plans.  Ultimately, she decides to enter the competition herself, despite having no sculpting experience of her own save watching her husband work.

Meanwhile, a 10-year-old black girl named Destiny is having trouble finding a permanent home after being abandoned by her mother.  She finally settles in with Ethan and Jill Emmet, a nice middle class white couple who seem to really want to help her.  She shows a talent for art and, after having helped Bob earlier, decides to take up butter sculpting herself, much to the surprise of Ethan and Jill.

And so, Laura enters the competition herself in order to win it while Destiny enters as well.  The plot from here on out is fairly easy to predict.  While Laura is ambitious and obsessive, which oddly enough makes her out to be a great butter sculptor, Destiny is a natural talent and an all around good person.

The wikipedia entry claims that this movie was made to mimic the 2008 Democratic Primary, but I doubt it as it was also a script that had been around before that.  However, Laura’s character reminds me of the various parodies of Sarah Palin, so there is that definite influence on this movie.

The contrast between the Picklers, a severely dysfunctional family largely due to Laura’s own domination of her family, and the Emmets, a loving family who only seek to bring out the best in a discarded girl, is pretty clear.  I really enjoyed seeing Ethan and Destiny interact in the movie and it really feels like something that was natural; like how I might behave around an adopted girl of my own.

The movie does take stabs at racism, but the opposite kind.  Where as the usual racism you find is one where the whites persecute the blacks, this movie has the whites holding up the blacks as some kind of angel, save for the Emmets who treat Destiny like a person.  It is amusing how it plays out and how it drives Laura to do some downright mean and terrible things.

One great scene that happens towards the end is where Laura and her husband Bob have a chat about her upcoming match.  She mentions how her last sculpture got the eye to forehead ratio right to which Bob replies that he’s surprised at how good she is at technically being a good artist but isn’t a real artist because she doesn’t bring soul into it.  Laura doesn’t seem to understand this and Bob, being the passive-aggressive coward of husband he is, doesn’t really elaborate much more on it.

The ending is not one you would expect from a comedy.  I won’t give it away, but it leaves a slightly unsatisfying conclusion, probably because the story is really a small sliver in the lives of these characters.  The cast really did a good job of putting together a great performance and making most of the main characters a little more than just simply one-dimensional, cardboard stereotypes.

I think it is well-worth watching, but then again I also enjoyed the movie Dirty Work, so take my opinion for what it’s worth.