Backstabbing and Butterfingers: A Poke at Conservative America

Photo Credit: The Weinstein Company
September 7th, 2012

Backstabbing and Butterfingers: A Poke at Conservative America

-- "Butter" is an R-rated ensemble comedy by director Jim Field Smith, set to be released on September 7, 2012. Starring Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Garner and Ty Burrel, "Butter" sets out to satirically dissect the political arena, while providing a heart-warming family drama that is laden with dark humor.

Battle Hymn of the Republic is the background track that introduces this political satire. "Butter" is a tale of cutthroat competition between an ambitious woman and a 10-year-old girl, which creates a defined parallel to the 2008 American Democratic Primary. The film is about an adopted African-American girl, Destiny (played by Yara Shahidi), who discovers she has a talent for butter carving. She decides to partake of the town's annual contest, and finds herself pitted against the formidable Laura Pickler (Jennifer Garner). Laura is cast in the mold of the easy target Sarah Palin, instead of the pragmatic, experienced veteran Hillary Clinton. Destiny's African-American origin, fresh face and inborn charm are the similarities to Barack Obama.

"Butter" also has a wacky cast. Laura is a character who is used as a tool for developing satire. As the beautiful wife of the acknowledged master in the craft of butter carving sculptures in Iowa, Bob Pickler (Ty Burrel), Laura foresees the end of her high-profile role when her husband is pressured into retiring to give someone else a chance at glory. Handsome and humble Bob represents the white American version of Michelangelo. Be prepared for genuine amusement as you listen to his hilarious renditions of "Schindler's List" and "The Last Supper." This is an affable trait that stirs up his wife's self-importance.

Driven by indignation and raw ambition, Laura shows up as the first person to enroll for the competition. Her absurdly livid reaction to Bob's retirement, coupled with paranoia that everyone envies the Picklers for their successes as well as gung-ho-ness, hint at a Sarah Palin connection. With absolutely no experience but for some mantra-born confidence drawn from lines in "The Secret" she self-declares as a contender for butter glory.

Laura faces three opponents. Destiny, whose adoptive parents are Ethan and Julie Emmet (Rob Corddry and Alicia Silverstone), shows up as the unlikely contender who significantly reduces her chances of becoming champion. Bob Pickler's number-one fan Carol-Ann (Kristen Schaal) and his would-be-mistress Brooke (Olivia Wilde) also line up for the competition. To make matters worse, Laura is furious at Bob and her stepdaughter Kaitlen (Ashley Greene) who keeps mocking her. These things make her more determined to do all it takes to become the winner. She recruits her naive ex-boyfriend Boyd (played by Hugh Jackman) and starts a sabotage run.

Brooke is a humorously vengeful stripper with a bad-girl attitude. She is sarcastic, perpetually scantily-clad, saucy-mouthed and rides a BMX bike befitting a child. Olivia Wilde, Dr. Hadley of "House" fame, is "Butter's" eye-candy. Her entry into the competition is inspired by the sole need to remind Bob of his unpaid services, which she rendered on his minivan's back seat. A meeting of the two characters, Laura and Brooke, infused with the pure and estimable motivations of the clever and strong Destiny, results in a triangle of conspiracies, treachery and insults.

"Butter" is mostly a liberal jab and poke at the Middle American folk who are God-fearing and crazed conservatives. Jim Field Smith shines at toying gleefully with the conservative truths of the image of Middle American family values that the Picklers represent.
Dysfunctional families hide behind facades. For instance, the attractive, bored lesbian Kaitlen expresses despair at her "retarded" parents. Bob cheats and is chided like a child by Laura, a woman who skirts her conservative-based morality and cheats with Boyd.

Mr. and Mrs. Emmet are the happy white couple who are willing to bring a positive change into the life of a disenfranchised and underprivileged little girl. They are benevolent people and good parents, as they act as the source of stability and encouragement for Destiny. As it is, the heart of "Butter" is in Destiny and her adoptive parents, who are surrounded by a sea of obscenity and crassness. Destiny's character is full of charm and spirit, and her knack for cracking jokes about weirdness and crackers gives the film a redeeming perspective from the frolicking undertones and stereotypes of racism.

You should anticipate 92 minutes filled with a number of genuinely humorous scenes. Director Jim Field Smith has risen beyond his 2010 teen comedy "She's Out of My League" by exploiting the unfamiliar gusto of the "Butter" script, and basing the setting on a wacky butter carving premise. He has maintained the feature film characteristics of cheap laughs and fleeting fun. However, you might find "Butter" greatly lacking in "The Hangover's" gritty charm and "Superbad's" endearing honesty.