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CHUCK AND BUCK, 2000
Movie Reviews!

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CHUCK AND BUCK MOVIETCHUCK AND BUCK, 2000
Movie Reviews

Directed by Miguel Arteta

Starring: Mike White, Chris Weitz, Lupe Ontiveros, Beth Colt, Paul Weitz
Review by Conor Duffy


SYNOPSIS:

Buck O'Brien is a grown man in a state of arrested development. When his mother suddenly dies, he invites childhood friend Charlie "Chuck" Sitter to her funeral. This reunion sparks an obsession in Buck to rekindle their childhood friendship, following Charlie to LA and stalking him and his fiancée Carlyn.

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REVIEW:

A film that has received both praise and condemnation, Chuck & Buck is an ebony black comedy drama about obsession, love and sexuality. Written by and starring Mike White, it is not always an easy film to watch, awash with the comedy of embarrassment but also due to its disconcerting subject matter. White plays Buck O'Brien, a man in his late twenties who still lives with his mother and has not developed emotionally beyond the age of a pre-teen. He doesn't seem to work, filling his time with various craft projects and listening to simple childhood songs on an old record player. When Buck's mother suddenly dies, one of the people he invites to her funeral is Charlie Sitter, or "Chuck," played by American Pie producer Chris Weitz.

Charlie now lives in Los Angeles and works as a successful record executive, but to Buck he is still the same kid he spent his childhood with and with whom he experimented sexually when they were still young. Charlie is eager to forget this part of his life, going so far as to deny such events ever happened, and leaves after Buck makes an ill-advised pass at him. Charlie does, however, offer an obligatory invitation for Buck to visit him, and soon O'Brien is clearing out his bank account, heading across the country. Too shy to simply visit his friend, Buck instead begins following him and his fiancée Carlyn (Beth Colt), who Buck is understandably not fond of.

Chuck & Buck is essentially the story of two men affected by a childhood experience but who reacted to it in very different ways and how they eventually find closure. Buck is trapped in a child-like state, socially incompetent in a world full of grown-ups. When he barges into Charlie's adult society he inevitably causes his old friend embarrassment and frustration. Buck is trying to recapture the intimacy of his relationship with Charlie, even suggesting they play the sexual "games" they played as boys. Charlie, on the other hand, is determined to forget those days existed, trying to focus on his upcoming wedding while possibly facing confusion over how to deal with his past.

When Buck finds that Charlie is less than thrilled to spend time with him, he throws himself into the work of writing a play as a way to express his emotions. Unable to discuss his feelings like an adult, he instead concocts a story of two childhood friends and the witch who seeks to tear them apart. He hires a cashier at a local theatre (played brilliantly by Lupe Ontiveros) and casts an incompetent actor who bares a resemblance to Charlie, a cocky tough guy played to great effect by Chris Weitz's brother Paul. These two characters are incredibly important in Buck's development from socially-retarded man-child to functioning adult. They provide him with an opportunity he may not have had before, whether due to his own childish mentality or the actions of his mother - the chance to create grown-up relationships.

White is remarkable as Buck. His portrayal of this fractured, frightened, lonely man is at times heartbreaking, hilarious and terrifying - sometimes all three in the same scene. We really have no way of knowing what Buck is capable of; time and again we are shown his inability to understand the consequences of his actions. He sees nothing wrong with sitting outside the building where Charlie works and simply waiting for him to come out or making frequent ill-advised passes at an increasingly-infuriated Chuck. Weitz, too, deserves plaudits for playing the incredibly uncomfortable straight man in this duo. Despite Buck's growth it becomes ever more apparent to Charlie that he must face up to his past if he wishes to enjoy a happy future. His decisions may shock some and seems understandable to others, but in the end they prove that Buck is not the only one with a ton of emotional baggage on his back.

What may come as a shock to viewers is the thread of hope that runs through the film. Despite their many failings, we cheer for these characters and their supporting cast as all find themselves in a slightly better place at the end than they did at the beginning. Tragic and darkly funny, Chuck & Buck is not easy to watch but ultimately uplifting in its own twisted way.

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