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"Duck Butter" and "O.G." - Star Vehicles for Unexpected Stars


by Murtada

Tribeca is such a wide-ranging film festival that it's hard to pin its personality down. But perhaps the best type of film it regularly offers is the star vehicle for non-stars. We're talking great actors who get to take the center of a movie (for a change) and give it their all, reminding audiences of their big talent.

In O.G. reliable supporting player Jeffrey Wright (Westworld) headlines as a prison inmate navigating the last few weeks of a 25 year sentence. Understandably he’s nervous about life on the outside particularly when he’s forced to deal with the victim of his crime. Life inside also gets complicated when he tries to mentor a young inmate just starting a prison sentence as long as his. Wright is in almost every frame of O.G. and it's a true showcase for his considerable talent. If your love for Wright started with his towering portrayal of Belize in Angels in America, (which won him the Tony in 1994 and the Emmy in 2004), then this is the movie part you've been waiting years for him to receive...

The film, though, is uneven. Director Madeleine Sackler has a good sense of place and is able to present the prison and its sprawling population well. It’s no surprise to learn that she also filmed a companion documentary, It’s a Hard Truth Ain’t It, there at the Pendelton Correctional Facility in Indiana. Despite that gift there's a certain unsteadiness in her setups and editing, choosing to jumpcut between several in many scenes when only a couple cuts are needed to drive the drama. But Wright's deep and full bodied performance is worth the ticket price.

And you should also spend a few dollars to see Alia Shawkat in Duck Butter.

In Miguel Arteta’s deconstruction of the romantic comedy, Shawkat is Naima, an actress in Los Angeles who meets Sergio (Victoria’s Laia Costa), on a particularly taxing weekend in her professional life. Tired of the push and pull of not knowing where one stands in modern relationships they decide on a romantic experiment; to spend a full 24 hours together being completely honest at all times. And to fuck every hour. What follows in an entertaining 90 minutes with Naima and Sergio as they fall for each other, fuck, fight, negotiate an orgy, and meet parents. It's basically the whole gamut of a relationship but in just one day.

Shawkat, who co-wrote the screenplay with Arteta, is winsome and appealing. Costa’s Sergio sometimes plays  the cliche of the exotic foreigner with expansive dramatic feeling, but the chemistry between the actresses carries the film through. If you need one more reason to see this then you must know that Downsizing's MVP Hong Chau also appears, albeit briefly.

Duck Butter opens this Friday in limited release. O.G. is still seeking distribution and plays Tribeca this Friday 4/27 at 5:45 PM

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Reader Comments (2)

so happy to hear that Jeffrey Wright got a role worthy of him. Such a great actor.

April 25, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

There was a wonderful article in the New Yorker about O.G. a few months back, explaining that Sackler had cast actual prison inmates (in addition to a few big names like Wright) to play the roles. I'm surprised that the amateur actors weren't mentioned here-- were their parts not so big?

As an aside, Sackler also directed The Lottery a few years back, which was a wonderful doc about America's failing education system but which sadly was totally overshadowed by the highly publicized Waiting for Superman that came out at the same time.

April 26, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

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