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Chuck and Buck

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Chuck and Buck

Starring: Mike White, Chris Weitz
Director: Miguel Arteta
Rated: R
RunTime: 96 Minutes
Release Date: July 2000
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Gay/Lesbian

*Also starring: Paul Weitz, Lupe Ontiveros, Beth Colt, Paul Sand

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

Remember when we were kids, had best friends, and swore to each other that we would keep in touch for the rest of our lives? Maybe this sort of promise would work in a traditional society like India's, but how many of us can honestly say that we've even seen any of our childhood friends ten, twenty, thirty years after we've grown up? Not many, I'll bet. Why is this so? Could be that we're now working in different cities, or perhaps we're even in close proximity but we have different lives. In my case, I became a high-school teacher while two of my buddies are doctors, another's a dentist, yet another "best friend" is a CPA. They all live somewhere in New York City but I haven't seen or spoken to them since we were 22. Is this bad? Not really. As we change our lives--if not our basic character--new people enter our perimeters.

But what if one day you were surprised to see your bygone best friend unannounced at your front door? You'd invite him in, of course, but what would you have to say to each other? You might get a chuckle or two remembering your experiences as kids, but aside from that, you're more than likely to be on different wave lengths. Now comes a movie that develops that theme.

In "Chuck & Buck," the character of Buck is played by the film's scripter, Mike White, who goes through his role so convincingly, with such seeming authenticity, that we are sure there's no small element of his own life in this sad and sincere tale of friendship gained and lost. Shot in digital video to give photographer Chuy Chavez more flexibility, "Chuck & Buck," directed by Miguel Arteta, is as unaffected as a faintly similar take on childhood, "Disney's the Kid," is blatantly counterfeit and commercial.

Buck's the kind of guy we've seen before, though not in such a state of Peter-Panism as is on display here. He's the fellow who still lives with his mom though approaching thirty, he's the married woman who calls her folks constantly to recount every detail of her days and weeks, he's the guy who double-dates with his sister, or the person who depends on his parents to set up job interviews and negotiate with his landlord. Buck represents a more intense degree of childishness, one who could use the services of both a psychotherapist and an image-maker (like "Disney's The Kid"'s Russ Duritz). When his mother dies after a five-year illness, the 27-year-old Buck has no idea what to do. He has no job, he has an inadequate education, and in fact he has spent his days in his room playing with and matchbox cars and listening to the records that were his favorites sixteen years ago. By contrast his best childhood buddy, Chuck (Chris Weitz), is an upwardly mobile executive in the music business with a Beamer, a trophy girl friend, and a lavish pad in Hollywood Hills. When Buck invites Chuck--whom he still considers his best friend though he has not spoken with him in a decade and a half--to his mother's funeral, Buck tries to re-establish the old bonds as though nothing has changed. He stalks him at home and office, and even writes a play called "Hank and Frank" to express his feelings for the pal. As Chuck realizes that he must shake off this nuisance, the executive also perceives that he too has gone off the deep end. He has cut himself off from his inner child as much as Buck clings to his own frozen-in-time existence. The story features an impressive performance by the always excellent Lupe Ontiveros, this time in the role of Beverly, the house manager at the small theater which takes a chance with Buck's play.

Forced by circumstances to find himself, Buck can look forward to his first career and to joining the world of adults-- while still not giving up the preciousness of his childlike character. This whole enterprise is constructed with such candor and openness that we wonder why the mass movie audience still cheers on the endless escapism of the Hollywood studios. Could this tendency be a reflection of our own wish not to grow up and encounter life as it really is?

Copyright 2000 Harvey Karten

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