Chuck & Buck

Chuck & Buck, the new film by Miguel Arteta (Star Maps) leaves viewers with an odd feeling. In this story about stalking, for the first time, the audience sides with the stalker. Buck (Mike White, a writer of NBC's late Freaks and Geeks and this film), a boy in a man's body, is the stalker in question. He simply never grew up. Although he is almost thirty, his room looks like it did when he was eight. He is always wearing a backpack, and lollipops are never far from his mouth. His mental capacity also seems strained. When his mother dies, he invites his childhood friend Chuck (Chris Weitz) to the funeral. Chuck goes by Charles now, and brings his fiancee Carlyn (Beth Colt). Buck is overly happy to see Chuck again, happy enough to forget his mother died. He immediately wants to begin playing again.

Beth invites Buck to visit her and Chuck in Los Angeles, and Buck immediately decides to move out there. What he does not realize is that Chuck is different now. They were friends as children, but Chuck grew up and is now a different person. Buck focuses completely on Chuck, always wanting to play or catch up. Chuck is always on edge around Buck, for reasons that slowly surface. Beth does not understand why Chuck is so hesitant around his old friend. In the meantime, Buck's actions increase in their strangeness. He writes a play titled Hank & Frank, an obvious allusion to his relationship with Chuck and his newfound jealously of Beth. Beverly (Lupe Ontiveros, As Good As It Gets, Mi Familia) agrees to direct the play, and she is the only one who can see right through Buck. Buck goes as far as casting Sam (Paul Weitz) as the Chuck character because of his resemblance to Chuck (the two Weitz's are brothers).

Buck's adolescence drives Chuck & Buck. His singular goal is to again be with his friend Chuck, and he is ignorant of most of Chuck's attempts to brush him off. Beverly realizes something is very wrong, and is the only one who wants to help. All day long Buck stares at Chuck's building and constantly calls. He follows Chuck and Beth to restaurants, visits their home at night, and watches through windows as they make love. He is clearly someone with large problems, probably one of the more deranged characters in recent memory. Even with all this, Arteta's story casts an immense sympathetic view on Buck. It breaks viewers' hearts that his friend will not be with him, even when the reasons behind Chuck's reticence surface. In addition, Arteta's story is funny. He manages to walk a thin line by incorporating humor with some of the ideas in Chuck & Buck, but he is able to accomplish this.

Arteta's use of a digital camera also helps. The film quality is poor, but this does not detract from the story. In a way, it seems like the viewer is looking at the world through Buck's eyes. The performances are also good all around. White's portrayal of Buck is creepy. He is not a conventionally good looking Hollywood type actor, and his labored stutter and loud breathing only increase his realism. The Weitz brothers, in addition to being able writers (they wrote American Pie and The Nutty Professor II: The Klumps) are capable actors. Chris looks completely uncomfortable and tense in all his scenes with Buck, but when he is away from Buck, he is confident and relaxed. Paul is also great as a bad actor. Arteta's greatest find is Ontiveros. She is a veteran character actor, which essentially means the only roles she was able to get in the past were those of maids and other stereotypical Mexican roles. Here, she is wonderful as Beverly, whose motivations come out of a sense of pity for Buck, greed, and ambition. She is a complex person, contrasted against Buck and Chuck, as well as the most normal person in the movie. Arteta is not afraid to bring serious issues to light, and does not deal with them in a conventional manner.

Mongoose Rates It: Really Good.
1 hour, 36 minutes, Rated R for sexuality and language.

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