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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Butter movie unfairly satires politician

Laura+Pickler+%28Jennifer+Garner%29+carves+her+family+during+a+butter-carving+competition+in+Butter.+Her+husband+%28Ty+Burrell%2C+back+right%29+swallows+his+shame.%0D%0APhoto+courtesy+Weinstein+Company+
Laura Pickler (Jennifer Garner) carves her family during a butter-carving competition in Butter. Her husband (Ty Burrell, back right) swallows his shame. Photo courtesy Weinstein Company

By Joshua Knopp/special assignments editor

Butter could very well go down in history as the only movie in which Rob Corddry plays the normal person.

Laura Pickler (Jennifer Garner) carves her family during a butter-carving competition in Butter. Her husband (Ty Burrell, back right) swallows his shame.
Photo courtesy Weinstein Company

Laura Pickler (Jennifer Garner, who also produces), is not a normal person. Her husband Bob (Ty Burrell) has been an Iowa state champion for 15 consecutive years at competitive butter sculpting, most recently using the pliable dairy product to create a life-sized model of da Vinci’s The Last Supper. Laura hopes to parlay her family’s notoriety in saturated fat art into political power, but, for her dreams to come true, she must take up the butter/carving knife herself after Bob steps down to allow another champion to be crowned.

In her way is Brooke (Olivia Wilde), a stripper/prostitute to whom Bob owes $600, and Destiny (Yara Shahidi), a skilled 10-year-old black girl who has been adopted by Ethan and Jill Emmet (Corddry and Alicia Silverstone), who encourage her to hone her talents with the tasty lubricant.

Butter can be taken one of two ways — either as a funny if awkward indie movie, or an abject failure of satire.

As a pointless comedy, it’s fantastic. Devoid of brainless slapstick or a contrived romantic subplot, the movie is nothing more than it is. This allows writer Jason Micallef’s witty dialogue and dynamite performances from Wilde and Hugh Jackman to rise to the top. Everyone, even Corddry and Silverstone, keeps a straight face, highlighting the film’s absurdity.

Unfortunately, given producer Harvey Weinstein’s stunt of inviting Minnesota Rep. Michelle Bachmann to the premiere, Butter was probably an abject failure of satire.

Basically, the whole thing is about Bachmann and the general ridiculousness of white people in the midwestern U.S.

The Picklers are analogs for Bachmann and her husband. The Bachmanns provide short-term care for victims of eating disorders. The Picklers give generously to down syndrome children. Laura states at the end of the film God called her to run for governor, and Bachmann said the same about her House seat. The Picklers are butter-carving champions, and the Bachmanns run a Christian counseling center that allegedly offers pray-the-gay-away therapy, which, for proud enough liberals and/or foreigners (director Jim Field Smith is English), could be considered equally ridiculous … kind of …

Good satire has to be fair to its subject, and Butter isn’t. Pickler is portrayed as a shrewd moocher who doesn’t accomplish anything on her own. Say whatever you like about her, but Bachmann has a juris doctorate, and she and her husband have taken in 23 foster children over the years. Quantifiably speaking, she doesn’t deserve this kind of flak.

Destiny’s remarks about “crackers” further push the movie away from being just a comedy. Destiny’s storyline plays on racial tensions that are still problematic today (her 100 percent white classmates are willing to adjust to her to the point of condescension, Pickler at one point apologizes for being born white and pretty).

In these two plotlines, Butter tries to make its audience think about the film’s deeper meaning, and that’s a problem because the film’s deeper meaning seems to be “white people are ridiculous (especially you, Michelle Bachmann!).” For a film called Butter, it’s a little tasteless.

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