by M. Faust
You could mistake Butter for a political satire, at least if Harvey Weinstein has anything to do with it. When this comedy starring Jennifer Garner as Laura Pickling, an Iowa woman who sees butter sculpting as her ticket to political glory, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last year, Weinstein issued a public statement inviting then-presidential hopeful Michelle Bachmann to attend the film’s Iowa premiere. Seems some viewers were seeing Butter as a parody of the Tea Party’s favorite congresswoman.
More recently, Indiewire reports that the Weinstein Company has taken to describing the yet-unreleased movie as “a political allegory of the 2008 Democratic primaries.” Laura gets into the butter-sculpting business after her husband, the longtime champion, is asked to step aside; her primary competition is an untested but gifted young black girl. That the film was shot in 2009 gives this interpretation a bit more credence.
Whether any of this lures either red-staters or blue-staters into theaters, all audiences are likely to be equally let down. Butter entirely lacks the sharp edge of similar movies about insanely ambitious women, like Election or To Die For; if it were a knife, it wouldn’t be able to cut the substance it’s named for.
Directed by Jim Field Smith, a young Brit who doesn’t seem to grasp American politics well enough to make fun of them, Butter primarily makes fun of middle American stereotypes that have long since been beaten to death. Garner co-produced the film, and likely realized that her scrawny frame and severe features made her perfect for this kind of caricature, but she can’t do anything interesting with it. The script is an unworkable balance of profane crudities and dewy-eyed sentimentality that don’t belong in the same movie, especially as Smith treats both with the same sledgehammer style. In a cast filled with familiar faces (Hugh Jackman, Olivia Wilde, Alicia Silverstone, along with TV’s Ty Burrell, Kristen Schaal, and Phyllis Smith), only Rob Corddry makes an impression by playing against type as a kindly adoptive father.
Hey, Harvey, if you’re still looking for ways to plug this stinker, maybe you can lean on the clip of Garner whining “It’s really hard” and suggest that she’s parodying Ann Romney?
Watch the trailer for Butter
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