Sunday, September 30, 2012

“Butter” – Movie Review



This weekend, the bonus screenings in my movie class resumed with “Butter”, a comedy with a large cast of well-known names, including Jennifer Garner, Ty Burrell, Olivia Wilde, Rob Corddry, Alicia Silverstone and Hugh Jackman. 


When a well-known woman in a small town decides to enter a butter carving contest, an obscure little girl with superior skills challenges her for the state title – but can the woman somehow find a way to win by cheating?


In Iowa City, Iowa, Laura & Bob Pickler (Garner & Burrell) are considered royalty.  Bob is a champion butter carver who has gained increasing notoriety over the years having won contest after contest.  Laura has been a supportive wife and has managed to leverage her husband’s success into a small degree of fame for herself.  But when Bob agrees to retire from the competition at the behest of the judging committee, Laura is infuriated – without the gleam of the spotlight shining upon her, she fears loss of her self – esteem. 

Berating Bob for backing down, Laura drives him from their home where he hooks up with Brooke (Wilde), a dancer at a strip club.  But once she feels cheated out of money owed for services rendered, Brooke stalks The Picklers in the hope that she will eventually get paid.  Amidst all of this, Laura decides that the best way to keep positive attention on her is to enter the butter carving contest herself, even though she has no experience either carving butter or being in competitions such as this. 

Meanwhile, a 10 year old girl named Destiny (Yara Shahidi), who has been shuttled from one set of foster parents to another for most of her life, suddenly finds that she may have an artistic talent of her own when she is sent to live with Ethan & Julie (Corddry & Silverstone).  Realizing that she might be able to win the butter carving championship herself, she enters the competition, pitting herself directly against Laura.  But when Laura convinces her old high school flame (Jackman) to help her in defeating Destiny, will her evil plan succeed or will Destiny be able to beat the odds and win the butter carving contest? 



Prior to the screening, our instructor discussed that the movie we were about to see was a satire.  To me, a satire is something that picks a big subject, then pokes a huge hole in it to deflate it for the purpose of targeting something that takes itself very seriously and trivializing it by making it look completely foolish.  Perhaps an excellent example of this to illustrate my point would be Chaplin’s film, “The Great Dictator”, which rather effectively lampooned Adolph Hitler. 

That is where I think the motion picture “Butter” seems to fail.  For me, it starts out being a bit on the mean spirited side by sending up a group of people who aren’t all that worthy of being made fun of – Midwesterners who lead a simple, uncomplicated lifestyle either by choice or by chance.  Many times over the years, we have heard political accusations by the right wing accusing a blatantly biased liberal media -- which does not represent their perspective or values -- of skewing the information they disseminate in order to serve their own hidden agenda.  Regardless of whether or not that accusation has any merit, the film does manage to unintentionally make villains of the intellectual liberals of Hollywood by making them look superior to less sophisticated people who work hard, who may or may not have limited opportunities and who can’t relate to the value system that pseudo-intellectuals of the media seem to hold quite dear. 

There are, however, a number of bright spots to “Butter” – with such a terrific cast, there are a great many fine performances, not the least of which being the little girl who challenges Garner’s character throughout the film.  Also, there are some good jokes that pop up occasionally – but not frequently enough for me.  Last but not least, there is Olivia Wilde as a stripper.  What more do I need to say?  Oh, yeah – she has a lesbian scene. 


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