Sunday, February 24, 2013

Don't Watch Butter, Please

One can go a long way with honest scientific inquiry as an excuse. Why shouldn't one read all of the Twilight books, after all? They are, or were, a legitimate cultural phenomenon. Why shouldn't one delve into the strange world of fan fiction? Isn't that an interesting way to see how people absorb and reflect media? Why shouldn't one then extend one's study into the strange, choose-your-own-reality realm of celebrity gossip? Doesn't that have value as a kind of funhouse mirror version of our current political environment?

Almost anything can be studied and many such endeavors prove worthy of one's time. But there's at least one act that is worthy of no one's time: watching the movie Butter. It is a piece of cultural detritus entirely without merit. I watched it today, and I am sorry that I did.
Here's what happens (spoiler alert for the next three paragraphs, so skip them if you hate yourself and plan on watching this movie even though I am explicitly telling you not to):

The story's about Laura Pickler (Jennifer Garner), wife of a beloved butter carver who takes up her husband's (Ty Burrell) hobby after he is forced out of the county competition after 15 years at the top. Her husband cheats on her with a stripper (Olivia Wilde) and has a daughter from a previous marriage (Ashley Greene) but nearly every suggestion of an actual plot line involving him vanishes into the ether immediately. Laura becomes an expert butter carver after one scene where she practices a little, and then it's time for the competition. Meanwhile Rob Corddry and Alicia Silverstone play foster parents with a little black girl named Destiny (and also another foster child who appears and disappears like a shadow) who turns out to be pretty talented at butter carving too. Oh, and also Olivia Wilde is trying to extort money from pretty much any or every member of the Pickler family, and no one seems to care, not even her.

After Destiny beats Laura at the county competition and Laura makes several racist and classist speeches that seem uncomfortably positioned such that viewers can either laugh at her evil or applaud her straight talk, Laura fucks her old flame Hugh Jackman (who has never seemed gayer than during his monologue praising the tightness of Laura's pussy) and persuades him to claim that he helped Destiny with her carving. Despite the fact that his claim is laughable on its face (there were literally a hundred people in the room watching the entire time Destiny created her sculpture), Destiny agrees to a rematch. Then, Olivia Wilde shows up in Ashley Greene's bedroom and performs oral sex on her in an entirely pointless and not even gratuitous scene. (That this movie seems to think two girls kissing is radical is a whole other thing.)

Then the butter carving happens again. Destiny recreates the one picture she has of herself with her birth mother and Laura does a car or something. The night before the judges are to view the new sculptures, Hugh Jackman (who we last saw outraged at Laura for making him malign a ten-year-old and realizing he'd been used) breaks in and partially melts Destiny's sculture with a blowtorch. But the judges love it, mistaking the vandalism for an intentional commentary on parental abandonment, and Destiny wins again. She and Laura share a hug in which Laura appears to realize how awful she's been and Destiny appears to forgive her, but after that neither thing seems to have happened. Rob Corddry adopts Destiny and Laura goes into politics. Nothing else happens to anyone. The end.
Longtime readers of this blog will recall Butter's troubled history. Initially positioned as a parody of the 2008 election, it was shelved and retooled and positioned for release a second time with the operative political female changing, in press releases and sound bites, from Hilary Clinton to Sarah Palin. For whatever reason, that plan fell through as well (there are interviews over the space of several years with Ashley Greene that describe the release of the film as imminent). After a third, furtive round of press that positioned Laura as more of a Michele Bachmann type, the Weinstein Company kicked it out a back door last summer.

The endless retooling shows HARD. This movie is such a hack job, you can practically see the jagged scissor marks on the sides of the screen. Huge portions of dialog and exposition come in the form of voice-over--from multiple characters and perspectives, no less! (Sometimes it's past tense, all-knowing shit, other times it is present-tense internal monologue, and toward the end it is almost entirely PRAYER. Like honestly this movie has more in common than Tree Of Life than you'd think.)
Ashley Greene and Ty Burrell's characters seem like they might have had, at one time, significant enough backstories to explain their erratic behavior, but they don't anymore. Hugh Jackman changes motivations and accents a startling number of times, which is especially notable since he has a cumulative five minutes of screen time (a healthy share of the voice-over, though!). The end of the movie is downright sociopathic, failing to understand human emotion on multiple levels.

Rob Corddry is fine, but his loving, adoptive father character is pretty deeply undermined by a bizarre and seemingly truncated speech in which he tells his foster child Destiny that he and his wife could adopt a baby if they want one but are just too scared. Cool story, dad! And Olivia Wilde seems like she could be funny and/or sexy if she had a better script and editor and director and producers. But she doesn't.

The Oscars are tonight, and the fact that the Weinsteins talked this movie up as a potential awards candidate is a million times funnier than the funniest joke in this movie (which involves Kristin Schaal running and talking at the same time and isn't even that great). Less funny is the fact that I watched this fucking thing instead of Life or Pi or Beasts Of The Southern Wild, the two best picture nominees I missed. Don't watch Butter. It's terrible and unworthy of your time. Trust me.

Butter is available on Netflix Instant Watch. I'd provide you with a direct link, but no. I refuse.