Projections - Movie Reviews

Chuck & Buck Chuck & Buck

An unsettling film snatched up at this year's Sundance Festival by Artisan Entertainment, the same studio which boasted the over hyped multimedia frenzied documentary, The Blair Witch Project, has another jittery movie that brews with genuine feeling in Chuck & Buck.

It's not that easy to classify a rekindling of a bond between two men that began in childhood then was abruptly severed.  Perhaps shock humor can start to describe Miguel Arteta's unpredictable film as he works hard with the bright scenarist Mike White who stars as Buck to create an unusual aura that gravitates from its homoerotic tendencies.  As in his Star Maps Arteta doesn't pander or really exploit as Chuck & Buck handles its queerness in a provocative way.

White's script involves his Buck, and immature twenty seven year old, a more debilitated version of Adam Sandler, who invites hometown friend Chuck (Chris Weitz) to attend his mother's funeral.  Buck still can keep his feelings under firm control; he likes toys and also grabs below Chuck's belt in private.

Obviously, his mom's passing marks a liberation for Buck and he sells the family home.

Chuck hasn't seen his friend for seventeen years, and now he's a well paid LA music executive with a lovely fiancee (Beth Colt).  But he seems to have erased from his mind the pre-pubescent times he spent with Buck.  Yet, he wants Buck to visit him.

Though it hurts to watch, there are truly comical moments as Buck guilelessly wants to relive the past.  After meeting resistance, Buck finds a way to affect Chuck by dramatizing his feelings which come out unexpectedly.

The controversy and cleverness of Chuck & Buck seems to come from a paradox of sexuality. Arteta and White keep Buck's background limited, only saying that his parents were crazy.  Buck's arc doesn't go the route one may think, and his murky psychology may not win over those of his persuasion, but there's an unwavering transposition with the chased Chuck, running scared in the normal sense.

Nevertheless, Chuck & Buck, for all of its naughty nebulousness never gets too menacing or farcical as Arteta keeps things moving briskly and gets performances with depth from the two leads.  From a determination given his irritated, but touchingly goofy wit, White exhibits grace from a grown retarded man.  And Weitz surprisingly opens up gradually a heart of a seemingly happy, but discomforted man.

Behind the leads, Lupe Ontiveros offers a nice maternal charm as a confidant Beverly, who runs a children's theater where she calls Buck's Hank and Frank staged event, a "Homo erotic Misogynistic Love Story".  Paul Weitz, Chris' sibling, also delivers as the dumb actor enlisted by Buck to portray Chuck in his autobiographical venture.

A stunted tone is established by much use of a kiddie refrain while the digital photography of Chuy Chavez instills ultra light bands in a cinema verite mode as Arteta wisely chooses the LA settings which benefit the dichotomy of Chuck's yuppie nest with the efforts of uncontrollable adoration.

Chris and Paul Weitz made many laugh with last summer's bawdy but endearing sex farce America Pie, but Arteta and White never let Chuck & Buck get absurd as humor and sex unnervingly find pathos.

Chuck & Buck

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