Elysium: My Utopia Would Have More Pizza Parlors

If it’s not clear from the trailers, this film is a parable about health care, class division, and illegal immigration. These subjects are treated with blunt literalism and its resolution is very cut and dried, regardless of their complexity. In hindsight the tone and story arc reminded me of a typical anime with clear malignant villains, a reluctant hero in an apocalyptic setting, and an oversimplified seemingly ungoverned society; stylistically impressive, but ultimately unmemorable. In all honesty I wanted to like this film a lot, I really did. We need more science fiction, more auteur directors, more unique franchises. We need more labors of love, more allegory, more thought and depth in film today and less carbon copy studio-massaged clones designed to be accessible and appeal to the largest possible audience. A good and imaginative film can inform and inspire, it can expand our consciousness or fire up our passions about controversial ideas. Elysium aspires to that level of storytelling, that idyllic place in the sky and, like the impoverished and destitute citizens left behind on Earth, falls short more often than not. And not for lack of trying or skill, this an entertaining and thoughtful film. But it does make some decisions that frustrate and distract and fail to compose a unique or involving vision and because of that I walked out of the theater feeling a little disappointed.

I’ll get this out of the way: District 9 was a super cool and surprisingly unique little sci-fi flick. Neill Blomkamp is a South African director with a ton of hype that stems from his distinctive style and use of stunningly realistic CGI characters. His vivid depictions of fringe, impoverished communities, a thin allegory for the ravaging effect of a Post-Apartheid society evokes a newish sort of stylistic aesthetic. If Star Wars inspired a kind of dirty, chaotic Sci-Fi environment that contrasted Star Trek’s neat shiny future and Blade Runner existed in neo-noir steam punk world, Blomkamp depicts what I’m going to start calling ‘third-world Sci-Fi’. His vision of the future makes Mos Eisley look like Mayberry in comparison and his portrayal of government ineptitude and beaurocracy is almost Kafka-esque. Which is one of my first problems with his second film. Matt Damon’s character Max works in an awful factory and lives in a hovel in an overpopulated unsanitary shantytown that is policed by brutal, nightstick-happy automatons. When an accidental radiation exposure threatens to kill him in a few days he decides to make a run for the orbitting Utopian satellite in order to use its magical healing tanning beds. My question is ‘why’. His life absolutely sucks. I’m not saying he doesn’t have a right to self-preservation, but as an audience member it looks like his ultimate prize is another few years irradiating robots and barbecuing on car hoods before he dies of a staph infection.

Smarter writers than myself have pointed out that in both of Blomkamp’s films the main character is not actually the hero of the story. Rather, they are forced to assist the actual heroic character out of what are largely selfish motivations. This is a really cool approach, I like the idea a lot but where this made sense for Sharlto Copley’s character Wikus van de Merwe in District 9, who only wanted his family and life back, Max is really only out to save himself. Even when he is given the opportunity to help the one person he truly cares about, he rejects her out of some misguided attempt to protect her. A gesture that, ultimately, proves fruitless. It has also been pointed out that all of his characters have their own pathos and their own goals that aren’t dependent on the protagonist. This is good writing: every character behaves as if they are the hero of their own story and their adventures intersect and react with each other along the way. Even the bad guys are fully realized and intimidating with Copley as a particularly unsettling sort of ninja Rasputin with a cool accent.

However.

To me, utopia is a world without Shaky Cam. Dear lord, I dream of the day this technique disappears forever and is forgotten in the annals of film history. This effect, when used in action sequences, never improves the experience. I curse the day Paul Greengrass took over the Bourne franchise and ruined the awesome and brutal hand to hand fight scenes from the first film by, I assume, kidney punching his cameraman during fight choreography. It’s lazy, stupid, and distracting, and there is no excuse for it when it comes to a director like Blomkamp who is fully capable of filming an engaging and exciting action sequence where the audience can tell what the hell is happening on screen. This is where Elysium let me down in a nearly unforgivable way. The director uses both Bullet Time and Shaky Cam in the same sequences and the affect is thus: “Oh that is really cool and….now I can’t tell what is happening.” And the parts I could understand were great. They are visceral, detailed, bone-crunchingly powerful. It’s a damn shame.

To return to my original sentiment, I really wanted to like this film a lot. And I do, for the most part. But the question of how to solve these social ills is criminally basic in this film and it made no sense to me at all. If the cure-all that is applied is so easy to distribute to the population at large then why have the privileged occupants of Elysium not shared it to some degree, meting out miracle cures that appears to cost no money, energy, time, effort; anything to assuage the desperate people left on Earth. This would eliminate the primary motivation for illegal immigration. Instead the rich upper class is depicted as either breathlessly incompetent or mind-bogglingly evil for hoarding this technology for no real reason and this is not a productive way of discussing the issue. Demonizing and marginalizing the One Percent as soulless Eloi is exactly as ignorant and reductive as describing the Lower Class as degenerate and lazy. No conversation is created, no progress is made.

All issues aside, see Elysium if you get the chance. It is not a waste of time and it has moments that display the real talent of director of Neill Blomkamp. I look forward to his next release and I want him to keep writing about challenging subjects if only in the hopes that he can come up more challenging answers.

The Newsroom: Aspiring To Intelligence

The greatest challenge in creating a show like The Newsroom is incorporating the real life news cycle into the personal stories of an ensemble cast and striking some kind of compelling balance between the two, where the audience is entertained by both. Where the first season stumbled with this goal, the second is doing a better job of still being interesting when Will McAvoy, portrayed by Jeff Daniels, is not being a vicious combination of Bill O’Reilly’s assertive condescension and Jon Stewart’s voracious pursuit of fidelity in journalism. His performance and the writing behind it are still the most addictive aspect of the show, but having spent enough time with the other characters, there is more to care about behind the scenes and the supporting cast has much more to offer now that they have been developing with believable depth for a full season.

Aaron Sorkin is a popular speed bag for intellectual criticism over the years and not without reason. Not because he’s entirely deserving, in all honesty he’s the rare successful television writer who can create entertaining thoughtful stories about complex relevant subject matter that is both accessible and reasonably well informed. However, the way he phrases his arguments are interpreted as pedantic, superior, and occasionally reductive but the fact that he’s making them is the important thing. In a show that is intended to be about a news team that is trying to elevate the level of debate about journalistic integrity and accountability in the political theater, his detractors are ironically focusing on the voice, rather than the subject matter being discussed.

It’s a little Kafka-esque when viewed objectively; the news is too close to entertainment so let’s make a show about news going back to its journalistic and investigative roots but we have to make it entertaining, too, or no one will watch it. But criticism of the show is that it is too preachy and not entertaining enough. Factor in the amount of time it takes to produce a season and the topics being discussed are inevitably dated by the time an episode airs and the canine-like attention span of modern audiences (SQUIRREL) have little impetus to become emotionally invested in subject matter that has been chewed, gnawed, strangled, consumed, digested by four stomachs (the news cycle is now a cow in this metaphor), excreted, and ultimately, forgotten about as 24 hour news networks struggle to fill air time in between breaking any and every story faster than the other guy. So how does this show stay relevant? And how does it avoid the know-it-all attitude that comes from reliving an experience with the gift of hindsight? Sadly, it doesn’t. But that’s okay, at least someone is trying.

Here is the problem with attempting to make an intellectual argument about a controversial subject in the Internet age: anyone who is capable of contradicting you will. Emphatically. With a distinct and unabashed enthusiasm that betrays ego and self assuredness and, in reality, common sense. This is the age of contrarianism rather than debate. And debate can be a healthy thing when properly moderated but the Internet would not be the Internet if it were moderated. The Newsroom presents an interesting idea that took me by surprise with it’s simplicity. Most TV shows, in fact entire networks scream to the rafters about being balanced and reporting both sides of a story, when in reality not all stories or arguments have two sides to them. Not to say it shouldn’t be sought out but sometimes, and I don’t want to paint with too broad of a brush, sometimes people who are consistently adversarial or critical are just being assholes.

I am a fan of Aaron Sorkin. I’m a total pushover when comes to fun, complex, witty dialogue. I love the occasional slapstick humor. I enjoy a well delivered diatribe. These things are in his wheelhouse, he definitely knows his strengths and plays to them without hesitation. I also agree with a lot of his politics, even though through his writing I learned what was too far left. Liberal media bias or not, the far right is too easy of a punching bag if only because they tend towards sensationalism and urgency in their message. But the extreme left is not without its own flawed perspectives. The West Wing was a great example of a purely optimistic liberal dreamscape in the White House. This show was so idealistic in its politics that it will never go down in the annals of television as being anything other than excellent entertainment. But in reality the selflessness displayed by every character in the name of the greater good makes it only that. As the reality of the last decade in Washington feels closer to House of Cards and it’s ilk, the appeal of his characters, President Bartlett, Will McAvoy, etc. remain charming affectations of the people we’d like to see running the show, instead of being players on a show run by Aaron Sorkin.

Sorkin-esque Monologue Conclusion :
Is The Newsroom flawed? Absolutely. Biased? Sure but what show isn’t?
Oh, I know. True Blood. Or Game of Thrones. Television is about escapism, fundamentally, if I want to know what to think I’ll watch Daily Show or Colbert and laugh away so I can move on with the rest of my life knowing someone else is affected. Someone else will do something about it.
Well, here’s the thing: no one is. Congress is still a monumental and historical failure, the Tea Party is still browbeating every borderline Conservative into fighting tooth and nail to pass archaic anti-abortion legislation, clinging to the one policy that has never been in danger of alienating red states, to retain what voting base they have left in order to get reelected so they can do…what.
Champion the current GOP policy of heel dragging?
And then you have Obama, and Holy God did I drink the Kool Aid on this guy. Twice. But thanks to this President I now owe an apology to the few lost souls who defended W when the Patriot Act was passed. Because, I said, vociferously, not only is there no need to, the government will never be so reckless with our civil liberties, nor are they competent enough to do so effectively. And as many, forgive the term, liberties as the Patriot Act took, I’ll be goddamned if the NSA hasn’t been illegally and without warrant, spying on American citizens. Damn if we haven’t suspended due process and ordered a drone strike on at least one American citizen that we know of. Punch me in the face if this didn’t happen under a President who campaigned under the idea of HOPE and CHANGE.
Pause for effect.
There is something wrong with our country. Something wrong with the people running it. Something wrong with the way we get our information and how we’re using it. I mean…the Internet is a gift, it’s the greatest invention in the history of humanity because it has the ability to unite every literate soul on the planet. And instead of using it that way, to make each other better, we’re using it to make ourselves feel superior in our own anonymous little dens, cloistered around monitors that play out information like little TV shows instead of seeing it for what it really is: a window into other people’s lives, into the real world that is spinning around us, nonstop.
Because it is spinning away, inexorably. The comments and views and likes are now part of a larger social strata, a collective consciousness that decides what kind of world we live in.
Pause.
I’d love to be Aaron Sorkin. Successful, critically acclaimed, all too willing to put his face on his art. Which is what it is: art. This is what writers do. Create a hypothetical environment, present an argument and step back. Now it’s up to the audience to continue the dialogue and, god willing, elevate it.
Jed Bartlet for President.

Netflix Suggested Viewing #6: Dear Zachary…

Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father

I’m going to do a very difficult thing and recommend this documentary to you, someone kind enough to take the time to visit and read my work. I don’t want to, because I don’t want anyone to feel the way this film made me feel, the way it wrecked me completely and burned its way into my consciousness that I am grateful for and haunted by. This is the kind of story that is summed up in a few hundred words in the secondary column of CNN.com that we skim through and shake our heads. That’s awful, we think, what is wrong with people? And then we move on with our lives, on to more pressing matters like lunch or a car payment. Or how bad the economy is. This is a mercy afforded to us, when a tragedy occurs, we can keep it at a healthy distance and the misery of strangers remains an abstract thing. But when someone takes the time to tell the whole story as it happens, someone who loves those strangers the way we love our own family and friends, someone with the time and resources and sheer force of will to work out everything that went wrong when it had every opportunity to be something else, you’re left with a film like this, coldly described as a true crime documentary, but so much more than that. Where we should have been reminded to have faith in darker times, to give the benefit of the doubt, and to trust the systems and people we depend on to protect the innocent, instead, we are robbed. This film is without fear, Kurt Kuenne goes directly for the throat and does not make any apologies along the way. If you are not comfortable watching grown adults lose their composure and fail to make sense of the world, look away. But you would be missing an important story about incredible people.

A man named Andrew Bagby was murdered by his ex-girlfriend Shirley Turner. His best friend Kurt Kuenne, an amateur filmmaker decides to create a film scrapbook of the man’s life by interviewing his friends and family across the United States and in the UK, in order to better understand the man he thought he knew everything about. Kurt is a talented editor and storyteller, which makes the entire film that much harder to watch as the facts play out during the course of filming. Worse, the course and purpose of the film changes along with the actual events as they occur and an already tragic story becomes infinitely more complicated when we discover his murderer is pregnant with his child.

Throughout the narration we get to meet Andrew’s friends and family. By all accounts, warts and all, Dr. Andrew Bagby was one of those guys. That rare personality that affects the people around him in such a positive and memorable way, someone capable of making best friends in the deep south, in Canada, in England, wherever this dude went he was well loved, brilliantly remembered. I knew people like Andrew, guys who had no regard for nerdiness or athleticism or class, who were, and here is a word that is tragically neglected in the world today, kind. I have no real understanding of the people interviewed who loved Andrew but the impression you feel from them is a feeling I am sorry to be familiar with. The world lost a good person, we were robbed of a good soul. Someone who had a slightly better idea of how to operate, who knew how to live a life that was just a little bit more fulfilling, if only because they see something we don’t, something a little more beautiful. And they shared it with us everyday, not knowing how profound of an impact they made and probably not willing to listen to it if we tried to tell them, given their nature.

I have some people that are important in my life who have civilized me to a degree. I am grateful for the ability to foster a concept of conscience about crimes like this, of mature and elevated reasoning when it becomes difficult to separate emotion and the need for justice. But the power of this documentary is the unrestrained emotions of his parents, the rage on display in all its futility. In all honesty, I hate Shirley Turner, it’s hard not to. No attempt is made to humanize this woman who has obvious psychological issues and that is perfectly fine with me, I don’t understand what made her this way, and frankly, I don’t care. As subjective and manipulative as the editing is, it’s clear she is fully aware of her actions and intentions. Shirley Turner is just smart enough to make bail and just stupid enough to be guilty without a doubt. Andrew’s father talks about things that no one should talk about and it’s hard not to sympathize but it made me wonder what I would do in his situation. What would you do if you were forced by the state to share custody of a child with the person who murdered it’s father?

It would be unkind of me not to warn you that an awful story takes an unexpected turn as it is being told and in this way we become part of it. The filmmaker and the parents of Andrew change and we change with them, whether we like it or not. You may be wondering why I would recommend this film knowing how painful of an experience that it is, or why you would bother, considering the content. Well. That’s hard to explain but I’ll put it this way. Emotions, to me, are the most important and interesting part of being alive, I feel the need to experience the widest range I can find, even if it means letting in the darkness from time to time. It’s impossible to filter out everything but the bright primary colors every day, sometimes the grays and browns and blacks become overwhelming; it’s hard to find your way in the darkness. And it’s a film like Dear Zachary that shines a light. The suffering of David and Kathleen Bagby is real and vital but so is their strength. They are exemplary, inspiring and I am improved because they shared this with the world. After getting to know them and spending some time with them everything feels a little more fulfilling, a little more beautiful. And it’s no wonder. Spending a little time in the darkness makes the light feel that much brighter.

dear-zachary-poster---hi-(3)

Netflix Suggested Viewing #5: Zodiac

Zodiac

David Fincher is one of my favorite directors of all time. The man can do no wrong in my eyes, even when he followed the groundbreaking and brilliant film Fight Club with the pretty okay/mostly watchable Panic Room. Even The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was really long and not memorable at all and…wait, this is supposed to be complimentary. Okay, so that film had the opposite effect while I was watching it, making me feel like I was aging in high speed instead of growing younger like the title character, granted. Academy Award nominated missteps aside, the man is a gifted filmmaker, in my mind, without peer when it comes to dark psychological drama.

In the film Zodiac Fincher displays his incredible talent by making a story with no conclusion that is entirely about bare bones detective work, factual analysis, witness testimony, and conjecture into a compulsively watchable thriller. Aside from a handful of chilling and deeply disturbing scenes of violence, nothing really happens in the traditional rhythm of a studio film. We never really see the killer or truly understand his motivations, faithful to the documented history of the events portrayed. There are no car chases or shootouts. No one races to anyone else’s rescue. This is a film that leaves a lot of questions unanswered making it that much more compelling for its refusal to pander to its audience. More to the point, this story has to do with the people hunting Zodiac, rather than the killer himself, and Fincher does an uncanny job creating the same addiction to details that the characters themselves are driven by. By the end of the film we feel like part of the story, puzzling over the loose ends, contemplative of the horrors committed, and eager for some more satisfying conclusion that sadly has not come to light, decades after the incidents themselves.

This is the real horror of the story itself; the embodiment of evil in human form. The calculated murders of random people by a sadistic and intelligent personality. The failure of modern day law enforcement to protect us and capture a monster. The boogeyman in grown up form, armed with a 9mm Luger and a flair for the dramatic, who taunts us with letters and ciphers, and then escapes into the night as freely as he arrived. This is an adult nightmare, when the security and stability of society is shown to be illusory in the public eye, in black and white print, where everyone can see.

There is not a single flawed performance in the entire film, Fincher is as gifted of a technical director as he is an actor’s director. Every performance is layered with deeper motivation, be it a tired bureaucrat, an apathetic detective, or the manic researcher. This world feels completely functional and occupied. It’s a study in film work, in how to move a camera to tell a visual story with very little visual art to speak of, where the mundane can be hypnotic and normality becomes surreal. A perfect example is the questioning of the principal suspect, where Fincher draws the viewer in by subtlety changing the attitude of the camera, from observational to inspective, calling attention to the thing that feels off about the interactions until we are face to face with the principal characters. This is a technique used by Jonathan Demme to great effect in Philadelphia and Silence of the Lambs, where the camera is looking directly into the actors, who are staring directly back.

It’s difficult to describe what is so engrossing about this film, I can’t really pin it down except to say that although I watched it yesterday and it has a pretty healthy 2 and a 1/2 hour running time, I could probably sit down and watch it again. If you have ever been hooked by a true crime documentary or been compelled to research a news story beyond the stated facts, this is the movie for you. It’s like an episode of Unsolved Mysteries directed by one of the most gifted directors working today and populated by actual professional actors. And, unfortunately, without the soothing narration of Robert Stack, but my point is, I walk away from Zodiac with my own theories rolling around in my head. It plays out like the fascinating puzzle it is: almost completely solved if not for a few missing pieces. Like an itch in that place you just can’t completely get to but you reach for it anyway.

Beasts of the Southern Wild: A Dreamer is the Only One Who Can Find His Way

This is a film I went into completely blind. Having heard some of the praise and critical acclaim I decided to go in with a virginal perspective, as clear of expectation as possible. I recommend this approach to those rare dark horse Indie films that come out of nowhere, riding a tide of glowing reviews and positive word of mouth. As much as I enjoy an interesting or compelling trailer, sometimes it’s nice to just dive right in and allow a film to sweep you along with no real certainty of where you’ll end up. That being said, here is one perspective, free of plot points or spoilers, cobbled together from the emotions and impressions that are awash through my mind, that will continue to echo around for some time to come, I think. I hope.

Once in a while, maybe a few times in my life that I can recall, you’ll see a film that doesn’t feel like a film at all. Instead, it feels like a fevered dream that’s come alive on screen, populated by people rather than characters, that hums along with less of a narrative and more of a thrumming heartbeat. It beats out its own unique rhythm, confidently spilling out details of a personal and distinctly different Universe that is too strange to be anything but real and too beautiful to look away from. It’s this kind of film that is, for lack of a sufficient descriptor, kind of magical if only for the fact that it shows us what the world looks like through someone else’s eyes with vivid enthusiasm. Beasts of the Southern Wild is like living in someone else’s imagination for a little while, someone who lives outside the civilized world, beyond the levies that hold the wilderness at bay. It’s the imagination of someone who can peer into our fishbowls and scratch their heads in bewilderment but have absolutely no interest in doing so.
This little community of people we get to follow seem psychotic at the outset, like a nightmare to anyone who has grown up accustomed to running water, electricity, hygiene but as they become more familiar there is a better word to describe the population of The Bathtub: alive. Alive in a way that is different to anyone capable of using the Internet but entirely alive and full of passion for every thing that the word means. This is the fascinating ideal of human beings who still live off the land they live on and eat with their hands and have no interest in a retirement plan or health insurance or when the next season of American Idol will start.

Quvenzhané Wallis was six years old when this was filmed and is the youngest person to be nominated for a Best Actress Academy Award. I’ll be completely direct about this, I don’t understand her. I really don’t. And I don’t mean I couldn’t understand her words or her performance, I’m saying it’s beyond me how this young woman occupies the screen with so much integrity and depth. Not only does she carry the film during its exposition and narration with incredible presence, no, what floored me were the truly dramatic moments, it’s the most challenging ones where she owns this story. I love a film with a great emotional climax or a perfectly delivered piece of dialogue, a moment that burns into your mind as the signature feeling that the film evokes but the most impressive thing a performer can do is create that feeling without a word. She does this with uncanny skill and describes the tone of the entire film with her eyes alone, it’s remarkable. I can recall the moment in my mind where the arc reaches its conclusion because of her angelic poise, her defiant gaze, like the melody of a favorite song from that one time in your past that immediately recalls the sensation of being there.

I want this little girl to disappear and live a good life in obscurity. I want her fame to be appreciated and then forgotten. I want Hollywood to keep their poisoned hands off of her and any pressure of repeating this performance to evaporate. I want Hushpuppy to grow up with the strength and wisdom she so ably displays in this film far away from the warped values impressed on so many child actors. And I typically loathe child actors with rare exception.

So here it is, Beasts of the Southern Wild is bottled lightning. It’s about courage, real courage in the presence of real fear. Because that’s what heroism is, not the denial of the things that frighten us but the acceptance and maturity to hold fast while still standing face to face with the end of the world.
I love it when a film or a story feels like it is speaking directly to me, sending me a personal message that only I know about. It’s what keeps me coming back, keeps me writing and thinking and talking about the medium. This is the kind of story that I want other people to watch so I can ask, what did you see? What did it tell you? What did you think?
The final message delivered by this story is lovely and it’s all yours to consider, it’s not my place or within my skill to invoke. All I can say is how much I enjoyed being in that place, at the ragged edge of everything, and how badly I want to go back there where I know I am a small part of a much bigger Universe.

Netflix Suggested Viewing #4: Butter

Butter

This is a film directed by a guy you have never heard of and written by another guy you’ve never heard of but it stars Jennifer Garner (Pearl Harbor, Elektra) as a fame-crazy Iowan housewife desperately trying to stay in the spotlight of her husband’s successful butter carving career after he is asked to retire. I had to reread that sentence a few times to make sure it was accurate (it is) and I know that it doesn’t immediately have a lot of appeal right away but bear with me. This movie is also about a young foster child named Destiny who discovers her own butter carving skills and decides to enter the state competition while in the care of Rob Corddry (The Daily Show, Hot Tub Time Machine) and Alicia Silverstone (Hideaway, Batman and Robin). Wait. Come back. Seriously hold on, I know that doesn’t exactly sound like a good time but it really is. Because although it has the premise of a particularly odd Lifetime Original Movie it also has the language and explicit content of an adult comedy drama you’d find on HBO or Showtime. This is both the greatest strength and weakness of this film; it straddles the fence between heartwarming story about a sweet, courageous young girl and a pretty hilarious mockery of small town affectations, an R-rated version of Best in Show minus the improvisation.

So Butter occupies this niche market that appeals to people who don’t mind a healthy amount of profane in their sacred. It’s a film that you would love to share with your kids but there is no possible way that you can do that given the amount of sex and profanity. The message is a pretty healthy one, like a more serious film I’ve recently reviewed (Mud) and it is that the honesty and clarity of heart that a child possesses can cut through all the nonsense that adults have a tendency to create around themselves. It’s that wisdom and age are not mutually inclusive concepts, in fact, privilege, success, and experience can completely distort our values as adults if we don’t take the time to realize we’re trying to be happy in the first place.  To put a finer point on it, grown ups can be total assholes for the weirdest reasons and that can be really funny in the right light.

I’ve liked Jennifer Garner for a long time, Alias holds a special place in my heart but I can’t say I can remember a performance from her since that show that has been particularly memorable. However, in this film she is pretty spectacular, playing against type as the arrogant, despicably self-involved Laura Pickler, a tornado of a woman disguised as a prototypical Midwestern housewife desperately trying to maintain her husband’s (and therefore her) small town celebrity status. She struggles to maintain her relevancy at the expense of her family’s dignity even going so far as to manipulate a hilariously idiotic former boyfriend portrayed by Hugh Jackman. I have a genuine appreciation for A-list sex symbol actors that are willing to play stupid boorish characters in small movies for fun (the Coen brothers have a particular knack for making George Clooney into a buffoon)(I love that word, buffoon). In fact, the entire cast is pretty damn entertaining. I discovered I really like Rob Corddry playing a decent considerate adult character as opposed to his normal buffoonery (I’ll stop). And Olivia Wilde, well, she is pretty surprising and better experienced than described. The A-list sex symbol sentiment from before applies to her as well.

This film slipped through the cracks and I understand why. It’s not because it’s bad or boring, it’s neither of these things. To the contrary I laughed hard and often. But it’s too crass to appeal to the traditional family audience, and too sentimental to belong in any specific stable of comedy films. Is it a little heavy handed and treacly at times? Sure. But I have a soft spot for that kind of thing, I don’t mind tearing up if it’s for a good reason. Laughing, crying, and thinking all in the same movie makes for a pretty satisfying day. The butter carving is an odd subject to move the story along but the movie is fully aware of it and for once the butter is a vehicle for something else instead of the other way around (I’m looking at you, lobster). So check it out if you’re looking for something to watch it is absolutely worth a viewing. Because this Butter is actually good for your heart.

Not proud of that. Not one bit.