Director: Miguel Arteta
To call Duck Butter one of the weakest films of 2018 would be an understatement; it’s in Fifty Shades Freed, A Wrinkle in Time, The Nutcracker and the Four Realms territory, and that’s a pretty bad place to call home. In fact, in almost feels like a combination of those films, an over-long sexual escapade with fake drama that was seemingly written by someone much to immature; gross. And then, speaking of gross, there’s the movie’s title, which bucked me the rest of the way off when it came up in the story; I was already about ready to give up and that moment made me throw up my hands and say “yep I’m done.” I made it to the end, barely, but while my eyes were watching, the rest of me had checked out, because this is cinema that does not deserve our full attention, at least not until every one involved can grow up and try again.
Naima is an actress who spends more time worrying about how soon the world will end than she does acting in anything worth mentioning, and her social life is about as constipated as her outlook; she can’t get over herself long enough to let anyone outside her bubble know who she really is. She gets a break with a fascinating new, organic, improvised drama, but that immediately doesn’t go very well, and she meets an extremely attractive, Spanish, wannabe singer named Sergio, who is a girl, to clarify, but that’s also wrecked almost immediately too, since Naima shuts any doors as soon as they open as it’s just all too scary. But maybe life will throw her another opportunity, when Naima inexplicable accepts Sergio’s invitation to spend the next 24 hours together. No sleeping, no bullshit, tons of sex and sharing; skip the things that scare you and dive right in, maybe that’s what we all need to do.
It’s an interesting concept, and it’s great that gay dating can feel this normal without being about the fact that the characters are gay, but way too much goes wrong along the way for audiences to enjoy where we are when it all wraps up. Arteta & Shawkat teamed up to write the script, and it often does feel spontaneous in a refreshing way, but there simply isn’t enough talent here to pull off something this audacious; not everyone is Joe Swanberg. Instead, if feels at times fake and at times so normal it puts you to sleep; they never strike a good balance between honesty and Hollywood. They sure try to bring in the stars to trick us into thinking we’ll see some chops though: Mae Whitman, Kate Berlant, Kumail Nanjiani, Lindsay Burdge, Mark & Jay Duplass. But those are mere cameos, and Shawkat isn’t a strong enough actor to carry the film herself, with Costa coming across as a caricature rather than a real asset. Good try I guess, but enough small misses can make a giant mistake, and that’s Duck Butter.
My rating: ☆