Never had I thought that butter, depending on which camp you subscribe to whether it's essential or harmful to the body, could become a premise for a feature length film. But it did, under the creative mind of writer Jason A. Micallef to weave an interesting story revolving around sex, power, wealth, and yes, butter. Butter carving that is, not Butter craving as misprinted in the promotional ads seen in newspapers here. And who knew that one can sustain a legacy just by carving out memorable scenes and famous characters from a slab of butter, which sort of begins the story of the husband and wife team of Bob PIckler (Ty Burell) and Laura Pickler (Jennifer Garner).
For the Picklers, theirs is a legacy within a small town in Iowa that has been closely linked to their small town fame and fortune. Which Bob got persuaded to give up and to allow others a chance at the title of best butter carving the next time round, much to the chagrin of Laura, who chides her henpecked husband at giving up their golden goose ticket that has sustained their lifestyle to date. Undeterred, here is a woman who is as nasty as she is beautiful on the outside, who decided to take things into her own hands, and whatever talent she lacked, she made up for it through sheer hard work to try and take back a title the husband had so willingly given up on.
Much of the film revolves around Garner's character, an uber bitch who is hypocritical and very much disliked, where even daughter Kaitlen (Ashley Greene) can't stand her ridiculous ways, and Bob looking for an outlet to express his frustration, much of it sexually as well, in the tattooed stripper Brooke Swinkowski (Olivia Wilde). And the subplot here is pretty interesting as it is hilarious where money owed from a transaction between Bob and Brooke developed into something a lot more explosive, which in any case Brooke is hell bent on getting back both on personal terms through a relationship with Kaitlen who strangely looks up toward Brooke as an outlet for rebellion and getting on her mother's nerves, and on the professional side by being the spanner in the same butter carving competition Laura competes in.
On the other hand, it's not all just the nastiness on display, but a sense of sweetness as well from the other major story arc involving the orphaned life of Destiny (Yara Shahidi), a young girl who has been bounced around foster homes, until she becomes the adopted daughter of Ethan Emmet (Rob Corddry) and Julie Emmet (Alicia Silverstone, yes it's been a while), a childless couple who is adamant in making things work with their new adopted charge. Destiny discovers having some artistic talent in butter carving, and with Ethan's encouragement, also enrols herself into, yes, the same butter carving contest, which now becomes more than just another small town competition, but develops into the melting pot of those seeking to further their hopes, dreams and even ambition.
What's very much fun here lies with the ensemble cast bringing out the quirky characters in this black comedy, where despite some being caricatures, are surprisingly engaging to begin with. Jennifer Garner leads the charge as she plays against type, taking up a role that's so negative, it's worth the ticket price just to see how far she would go in playing a character so vile, with a sly critique on politics and public figures.Then there's Alicia Silverstone playing a mum, which I suppose it's something quite inevitable in Hollywood terms once an actress hits a certain age and has a limited number of roles being on offer. Rob Corddry may be a familiar face in a number of cameo appearances in comedies, but I thought he had a solid role here as Destiny's adopted dad. And who would have expected Hugh Jackman to play a redneck car dealer salesperson who has a thing for Laura since high school, and was a hoot at playing a male bimbo, who stole every scene that he appeared in.
Directed by Jim Field Smmith, Butter is that silky smooth black comedy that is a pure guilt pleasure of a ride, very much different from his earlier feature directorial debut with She's Out of My League. It's smart, witty and has its cast largely playing against type, and revelling in their assigned roles. Highly recommended.
In other news, I thought GV had an interesting promotion for this film, which I believe may be extended to other titles they may distribute in future. The ticket prices for the film are tiered, with the first 20 tickets priced lowest, and then progressively working its way upwards in sets of 10/20 tickets. May put pressure on those undecided to make a commitment to watch, thereby filling up the hall fairly quickly.