Chuck & Buck

Best pals. Chuck (Chris Weitz) isn't sure he wants to rekindle his childhood friendship with Buck (White)...

dir Miguel Arteta • scr Mike White
with Mike White, Chris Weitz, Lupe Ontiveros, Paul Weitz, Beth Cort, Maya Rudolph, Paul Sand, Mary Wigmore, Gino Buccola, Doug Keifer, Glory Simon, Barry G Thomas
00/US 4.5 out of 5 stars
Review by Rich Cline
One of the most fiercely original films about adults coping with their pasts, Chuck & Buck is a blast of fresh air. It's unflinching, intelligent and very funny, refusing to buy into stereotypical examinations of the issues involved. A terrific, frequently surprising film that finds understanding without taking the easy path through its touchy themes.

When his mother dies, Buck (White)--who's 29 going on 12--tracks down his childhood friend Chuck (Chris Weitz) and invites him to the funeral, hoping to rekindle their friendship so he won't have to grow up. But Chuck is now a successful L.A. music exec with a fiancee (Cort). And when Buck suggests that they renew their teenage sexual experimentation, Chuck gets out of there quick. So Buck, naturally, heads to L.A., where he tries everything he can think of to get Chuck's attention, including producing a play about the two of them (called Hank & Frank).

Yes, the film dares to tackle some rather taboo subjects ... and it does so in an open, honest, funny and often rather frightening way. Buck is a sort of idiot savant like Rain Man or Forrest Gump, but he's not nearly as naive or innocent as either of those. And as written and played by White he's also surprisingly likeable. We root for him to sort himself out!

The Weitz brothers (who produced and directed American Pie, of all things), deliver startling, revelatory performances. Chris is a bundle of nerves as he tries to fend off his dear old friend and avoid this trip down memory lane; while Paul is terrific as the actor Buck hires to play Chuck in his play--a very bad actor with a mind-bogglingly simplistic worldview. And Ontiveros gives superb support as an overlooked woman finally given the chance to really shine as the director of Buck's play. Arteta's direction is clever and very subtle, using DV to superb effect to capture the real-life edginess of the people and situations. But his real trick is to keep us laughing throughout the story's gentle, warm-hearted, profoundly honest storyline.

[15--strong adult themes and situations, language] 13.Oct.00
US release 14.Jul.00; UK release 10.Nov.00

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"This is a film with hidden depths. For the first half hour, you're led to believe this is just another dumb and dumber Hollywood comedy. After treading all too familiar territory, the plotline suddenly twists and jacknifes into the unknown, taking you on a bumpy journey that often makes very uncomfortable viewing but entertains by consistently confounding your expectations. The often very dark humour is relieved by some genuinely touching moments, although the film's frank and thoughtful exploration of social taboos may prove too hard to swallow for some." --Trevor Hatton, UK, 15.Apr.02
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© 2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall