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Movie Reviews

Chuck and Buck  
2000
Mike White
Directed by Miguel Arteta
Reviewed 01/15/01
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I must confess I had no plan of watching Chuck and Buck.  I did not hear much about it until Entertainment Weekly's Owen Gleiberman named it the best movie of the year.  I thought to myself, "If I have the chance I will watch it."  Well, tonight I got the chance.  As I was browsing the new releases at the local Blockbuster thinking only about the movies coming out on video that I want to see (Wonder Boys, Almost Famous) and movies in theaters that I had hoped to see (Cast Away, Finding Forrester), I had narrowed down my selection to two videos: Being John Malkovich and Hollow Man; Being John Malkovich I had already seen ( and ranked high on my list in 1999) and Hollow Man I had not seen yet but was willing to ignore the bad reviews and give it a chance.  But, then, the video screen in the store caught my eye.  It was advertising Chuck and Buck and I immediately went to the "C"  section on the new release wall and nabbed it.  And I am awfully glad of this happening for I was in for a delight.

Chuck and Buck tells the story of a 27 year old arrested-development case who's mother has just died. He invites his childhood best friend Charlie (Chuck) to the funeral.  Chuck, instead of showing signs of grief, at the funeral, is rather excited and happy to see Chuck. While Chuck has moved on from childhood, now engaged and working as an executive in the music business, Buck is still a child.  He has not moved on, now the death of his mother showing the first signs of his need to mature.  And we really find this out not when we first see Buck with toys and blow pops but rather in his first interaction with Chuck ("Do you wanna see my room?").

Buck soon fixates his life on Chuck (saying that when around him is the only time he feels okay and alive).  He stalks Chuck and his fiancee.  Buck cannot take the hint that he is unwanted, does not realize when he is out of place and seems to continue to unknowingly walk into situations of embarrassment.  He writes a play that he holds at a theater across the street from Chuck's office and convinces him, by getting to his fiancee, to come.  Chuck feels sorry for this guy and he knows that the confusion of Buck has been contributed to by past actions of himself.

Chuck & Buck avoids being a creepy stalker movie, and it doesn't, as I suspected it would at the beginning, get the audience to see Buck as an innocent, goofy and likeable childlike adult.  It instead makes us feel, perhaps, almost as Chuck did.  We feel sorry for the film's twisted hero but at the same time know that Buck brings things upon himself. Buck is there only to be observed as if Arteta is saying here is a real human being; here is how real people treat him, which is another thing I loved about this film: the realistic characters.  Mike White gives one of the best performances of the year as Buck.

The film avoids being a formulated or in any way at all predictable. It gets into the lives of these people.  It is a dark comedy on one side but also a fascinating look at human nature regarding feelings such as embarrasment and pity. The film goes for a laugh at, sometimes, the most awkward and, perhaps, inappropriate, or so it would seem, moments.  It has a satisfying conclusion and  I give this film my highest recommendation. It will surely be included in my best of 2000 list.

Blair Bass

 

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