Tag Archives: mae whitman

Duck Butter

Naima is having a bad day: she’s not fitting in on the set on an indie Duplass Brothers movie and her roommate is a bit of a wet blanket. So she’s in the right kind of mood to fall in love with the beautiful and exotic lead singer at the club that night, and she does. Naima and Sergio go home together and have an amazing time but when Sergio proposes that they should spend the next 24 hours together in an intense, sex-forward, date-skipping, get to really REALLY know you kind of thing.

Naima (Alia Shawkat) cuts and runs of course, as any sane person should. But when the Duplasses fire her she kind of has a change of heart and begs Sergio (Laia Costa) to forgive her reluctance and cowardice and soon enough, their little love experiment is in full swing. And how. These two ladies are not afraid to let shit get REAL. And it’s shot in nullsuch a way that things feel authentic and raw, and the intimacy translates so that we too are made uncomfortable by the too much, too fast. I totally get the wanting to fast forward past the awkward part of dating, the artifice of it,the hiding of one’s true self, but if there’s a way past it, all this movie does is prove that this isn’t it.

But it pretty compelling to watch. I mean: Alia Shawkat. She is a gift to the indie movie scene. She’s versatile and has a pure and brave energy. Her chemistry with Costa is terrific, as it absolutely must be to make this movie work. Shawkat and Costa are impressively willing to go there. It must have been emotionally draining to be so present and in the moment, but they give the movie a bold and brazen but fleeting vibe that’s unique to this 90 minute capsule.

The film is imperfect just like the characters, just like their romance. And if you can imagine spending 24 hours with a stranger who is also your lover and new best friend, it flags a bit in the middle, just like you’d do in real life. But there’s something just so refreshing and weird about this film, about the collision between two people in a certain time and place, that I couldn’t look away.

Now, if you need any more convincing that representation matters, here’s an interesting tidbit. On Rotten Tomatoes, Duck Butter is rated Fresh by nearly every single female critic, and it is rated Rotten by all the men save one. Movies mean different things to different people, and that’s okay. Just don’t let half of those people convince you theirs is the only opinion that matters.

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The DUFF

Ladies and gentlemen, this is my official entry into grumpy old crony-dom. I watched a teen comedy and hated every moment of it.

the-duff

I’m 26 in real life!

It hits every hallmark that a teen comedy should have: the neglectful parent, the social hierarchy, the cute boy next door, the mean girl, the dance. She even pretty-in-pinks her own homecoming dress for crying out loud (although substitute flannel for pink). But none of it works. None of it even comes close.

Mae Whitman, playing Bianca, the titular DUFF (designated ugly fat friend) is neither ugly nor fat. She’s actually eminently cute, and even the dowdification she undergoes in the film doesn’t make her unattractive (although those overalls have got to go). You may know her from Arrested Development or The Perks of Being a Wallflower, where she is all kinds of good and several varieties of charming. But in this movie she seems miscast. When Bianca goes through the obligatory musical montage of different outfits, it’s painful. It doesn’t just miss thethe-duff mark, it misses the point. We don’t fall for it, or her, and neither could anyone else. It’s awkward and obnoxious. The ugly duckling is supposed to be turning into a swan but instead she’s turned into a goose that honks by itself over in the corner.

The film varies wildly from its source material. The book shares a title and some character names, but that’s about it. It’s a little racier and a lot less will-they-or-won’t-they. The movie took its chance to be edgier and more subversive than others in its genre and basically shat all over it. There’s nothing subversive about the happy ending depending on getting the guy.

Anyway, the concept of the DUFF is revolting. The DUFF is adopted by a circle of hot girls to try to make themselves look better by comparison. The DUFF is the approachable one, the one

A caption to prey upon every adolescent's insecurities

A caption to prey upon every adolescent’s insecurities

guys can safely chat up to gain the respect of the hot friends, and also intel on them. The movie defines these parameters strictly but then defies them continually. Bianca’s friends never give her any indication that this is true of their friendship – in fact, their little trio seems quite solid until Bianca herself tears it apart. Would I like this movie any better if it was more accurately titled The Curmudgeonly Third Wheel in Unfortunate Outfits? No. First, that’s a horrible acronym, but more importantly, this movie treats the clichés of a teen comedy as something to be ticked off a list. This is no John Hughes send up, it’s just embarrassingly derivative. This movie has no soul. Let’s flush it and forget it.