Political satire “Butter” makes use of talented cast with creative concept and witty screenplay


By Wesley Emblidge

Is there really anything more compelling than the story of a small town butter carving competition? “Butter,” the film by Jim Field Smith that showed at the recent 34th Mill Valley Film Festival, makes you believe that there really isn’t. However it’s more than just that, the film is actually a cleverly disguised political satire based on the 2008 Democratic primaries (Hillary Clinton against Barack Obama), but applied to a small rural town in the Midwest.

Jennifer Garner takes on the Clinton role as Laura Pickler, the wife of Bob (Ty Burrell of “Modern Family), the champion butter carver 14 years running. Laura hopes to use her husband’s fame to slowly bring them into a political career, suggesting every office from mayor to president. However, as the latest round of competition ends and Bob has won his 15th competition in a row (with a version of “The Last Supper” that judges called “better than the original”), he is politely asked to step down and “give someone else a shot.” When Bob agrees, Laura is furious, and decides that if her husband won’t lead their family to success, she will.

Laura enters the competition with three others: Carol-Ann Stevenson (Kristen Schaal) is a cat obsessed young woman with absolutely no idea what she’s doing. A stripper named Brooke (Olivia Wilde, who steals every scene she’s in) who is owed money by Bob, and finally, taking on the Obama role, a 10 year-old foster child named Destiny (Yara Shahidi), who turns out to be an excellent butter carver, maybe even better than Bob.

The film is written and acted exceptionally well. It’s the first time I’ve ever thought Garner actually added to a film. I usually can’t stand her no matter what the role is , but in this film she plays a total psycho and pulls it off effortlessly.

Hugh Jackman shows up in the film as well, but is tragically underused; he has a total of three or four scenes at the most, and anything he actually does during these just seems forced or odd.

Wilde is probably the best part of the movie, as everything she does is hilarious. One of the best moments in the whole film is her coming through a door and walking across a room, yet the way she does it is utterly hysterical. The audience deserves more time with her, but at least she gets more scenes than Jackman.

In the end, a number of great elements come together in “Butter” to a create a flawed and messy, yet still very enjoyable and witty piece of satire, similar to great films such as “Election,” “Thank You For Smoking” and “Best in Show.” “Butter” is set for release in October 2012, and personally, I hope it’s soon, so I can revisit it.

4/5 Stars