Chuck & Buck

on July 14, 2000 by Mike Kerrigan
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   Let's set the scene. Chuck and Buck were boyhood best friends. They indulged in the usual childhood pastimes and some not so usual, particularly ones that happen to rhyme with their names. Chuck moved away and they lost touch, and now, years later, they are all grown up. Well, at least Chuck, now Charles, is trying to be, while Buck seems to be stuck in some kind of time warp. He follows Chuck to Los Angeles and tries to insinuate himself into Charles' life. The embryo showbiz mogul resists, and when stalking doesn't seem to be getting him anywhere Buck dashes off a play remarkably like his own life story and invites Chuck and his fiancée to opening night. The cat is out of the bag in a major way.

   If this had been a conventional Hollywood movie, the scene would have been set for some kind of Jack the Ripper ending, probably with a car chase through wet city streets. Instead, "Chuck and Buck" is allowed to play out all the psychological tension it has created. It even leaves the stage set for a sequel, but instead of waiting for "Chuck and Buck II" ("Son of Chuck and Buck"?), that movie will be played out in the heads of audiences for weeks to come.

   Mike White has written one remarkable movie and one humdinger of a role for himself. His childlike Buck is the kind of social misfit that you instinctively feel sorry for, but really don't want in the same room. It is a delicate balance and, as actor and writer, White perfectly walks the emotional tightrope between pathetic and obnoxious. He was, incidentally, the supervising producer of TV's "Freaks and Geeks"; Buck is the poster boy for both.

   Chris Weitz is faultless as the pal who is now determined to fly straight. He leaves enough ambiguity with the comfort zone he enjoys in his new life to keep you constantly guessing. And a special mention to Chris' brother, Paul, who Buck casts as the Chuck character in his play. It's not easy to play a bad actor without acting badly. Paul Weitz pulls it off.

   "Chuck and Buck" was shot on video and transferred to film. The gritty look works perfectly. Director Miguel Arteta ("Star Maps") lets the story unfold at just the right pace, allowing the tension to be cranked up one agonizing moment at a time. Like all great movies, you can't be sure what's going to happen next. Starring Mike White, Chris Weitz, Lupe Ontiveros and Beth Colt. Directed by Michael Arteta. Written by Mike White. Produced by Matthew Greenfield. An Artisan release. Rated R for sexuality and language. Running time: 99 min

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