Here’s an odd film: a heartfelt, sweet and funny little story about a coming of age better late than never, it’s also the disturbing tale of a pathetic gay sociopath and the man he stalks. Odd blend for sure, sort of like “Forrest Gump” meets “The Talented Mr. Ripley”. Mike White (who also wrote the script) stars as Buck, a funny looking 27 year old man who still lives with his mom in his childhood room. Seeing him walking around with a big grin on his face, sucking on a lollipop, wearing a striped polo, you’d think he stalled at the age of 11. In a way he has, for it’s at around that age that he lost Chuck (Chris Weitz, who wrote and directed “American Pie” with his brother Paul, who’s also in the film as lame actor Sam). They were the best of friends, like peas and carrots, always together climbing trees and making up games. When Chuck’s family moved west, Bust just couldn’t move on. Chuck was his life, with him gone he felt… dead. And now it’s his mom that’s dead after a long illness and on a whim, Buck invites his long lost buddy to the funeral.
If he hoped they’d catch up and be playmates again, Buck is bound to be disappointed. Chuck has changed; he’s gown up. He has a fiancÃ© (Beth Colt), a luxury car, a house and a job as record label executive. He’s got little time to give a freaky man child he once knew, but Buck won’t, can’t let go of his erotic obsession. Out of desperation, he writes and produces with a kindly theater manager (Lupe Ontiveros) a play called ‘Hank and Frank’, a thinly disguised fantasy about what he’s going through. Maybe that upon seeing his staged cry for help, Chuck will change his mind and give Buck another chance…
White says he wrote Chuck and Buck to please himself, frustrated as he was of penning idealistic, clean cut mass audience stories as a writer on Dawson’s Creek. We are really talking different universes here, unless the next season of the WB teen drama has Pacey stalking Dawson in hope of hot gay action, which I doubt will ever happen. White’s film is about different things such as repressed homosexuality and lost friendship, it’s kinda how Ontiveros describes it, “a homo-erotic, misogynist love story”. Or maybe it’s as Buck puts it, just a fairy tale. Or it’s just about growing up, moving on, letting go. About becoming an adult who doesn’t expect life to stay as simple as that of a kid. As children, it’s easy to be exclusive with somebody and swear always to stay together, but life has a way of moving people apart in different directions.
Besides being a good writer, White is also a very interesting character actor. He has one of those faces you don’t forget, and he isn’t afraid to bare himself on screen, to show the needy, vulnerable geek that hides in a lot of us. His Buck is a sad figure, sometimes amusingly. It’s a bit unsettling how you’ll be laughing at the ridiculous of his behavior, then you see how sensible and affected he is and you can feel his pain. Very strong performance here, not quite matched by Chris Weitz’ more conventional interpretation. Ontiveros is always compelling though, and Paul Weitz has an off-center charm to himself. As for director Miguel Arteta, the voyeuristic feel he gives the movie is apt, and I can understand the need for realism of his Dogme 95 aspirations, yet I have to point out that, say what you want, digital cameras are still far from being on par with 35 or 16 mm. But if that cheaper medium is the only way quirky little pictures like “Chuck and Buck” can get made, more power to it.