Of all the films to premiere at Sundance 2000, there is one movie that best represented what indie film is supposed to be. There should be no directorial shenanigans, no slickness, no audience a*s-kissing, and no disruptive star-presence. There should be a well-written story, three-dimensional characters, and the kind of subject matter that no studio would touch. The film that has all this in abundance is “Chuck and Buck”.
Buck O’Brien (Mike White) is a damaged adult whose psyche did not really survive puberty. He’s never really had any friends since his pal Chuck (Chris Weitz) moved away with his family. Chuck and Buck are reunited for the first time at the funeral of Buck’s mother. Buck would like nothing better than to reenact some of the more unnerving aspects of the pair’s relationship, but the clearly unnerved Chuck would prefer never to see his old pal again. He doesn’t really have that option as Buck, with nothing better to do, follows him back to Los Angeles and disrupts nearly every aspect of Chuck’s life. Then, the movie gets REALLY weird and disturbing. Oh, and this is a comedy.
What experience the cast lacks in front of the camera they more than make up for behind it. Chris Weitz is the co-writer of “ANTZ” and the producer of “American Pie”. In the role of Sam, a doofus who takes on Chuck’s significance in Buck’s life is Paul Weitz, another co-writer of “ANTZ” and the director of “American Pie”. the primary instigator is Mike White who both stars in and wrote “Chuck and Buck”. Previously, he was a writer for both “Dawson’s Creek” and the late, lamented “Freaks and Geeks” and worked on the film “Dead Man on Campus”. Pulling White’s vision together in a movie that’s more Dogme-’95 compliant (and funnier) than Lars Von Trier’s “The Idiots” is “Star Maps” director Miguel Arteta.
This movie is NOT for everybody. It’s not the kind of picture that makes you feel good, it’s the kind you walk away from asking, “What the hell was that?” I like that sort of thing. It’s one of the best films of the year by making what is essentially a crazed stalker sympathetic, endearing, AND very creepy. After all the crap I’ve seen this year, Arteta and White should be praised just for stepping up to the plate to challenge the audience, much less hitting one out of the park.