When Chuck and Buck were 11 years old, they were best friends. Chuck
long ago moved away. He's now 27 with an important job and a lovely
fiancée. Buck, on the other hands, still has the social graces and
mental capacity of an immature 11-year-old. Most of all, what hasn't
changed is that Buck still has a major crush on Chuck.
In Miguel Arteta's CHUCK & BUCK, one of the hits of this year's Sundance
Film Festival, Buck is played with creepy innocence by the movie's
writer, Mike White. In a more straightforward role, Chris Weitz plays
Chuck, a hard-working music promoter.
Although the film does have its moments, when it gets decidedly under
your skin, most the movie is so devoid of energy that it rarely involves
the audience. Shot on videotape, the ugly cinematography has the look
of a third generation tape copy. The colors smear across the frame like
a home video, which only calls attention to the amateurishness of much
of the acting.
After inviting Chuck to their old hometown to his mother's funeral, Buck
follows him back to LA. After taking up residence in LA, Buck, sucking
on his signature red lollypop, starts stalking and voyeuring Chuck. At
first, at least, Chuck's fiancée (Beth Colt) is concerned about this
child in a man's body who is obsessed with her future husband. Later
she becomes just as leery of him as her fiancé.
To make Chuck fully understand the feelings he holds for him, Buck
writes an autobiographical play ("Hank & Frank") that rivals "Springtime
for Hitler" from THE PRODUCERS for obnoxious banality, except that the
latter was meant to be campy fun. "Hank & Frank," however, serves only
to remind us of how much worse the movie CHUCK & BUCK could have been.
The film's treacly music has a childlike happiness. Sometimes it seems
that the movie wants to transform itself into a parody, such as BUT I'M
A CHEERLEADER, but it never does.
As the film slowly moves along, it does manage sporadically to shock and
touch us. But Weitz's overly obvious acting telegraphs its big surprise
so badly that it takes the punch out of what should have been the
movie's best scene.
What we take away isn't the fear that some forgotten lover will come
back to harass us. Instead, what we are most likely to remember is that
we don't enjoy going to the theater to watch images that look much worse
than our own home videos.
CHUCK & BUCK runs a long 1:36. It is rated R for sexuality and language
and would be acceptable for older teenagers.
Copyright © 2000 Steve Rhodes