Thompson on Hollywood

The Weinstein Co. threw its comedic political allegory Butter into the Telluride fray as a test balloon to see how it would play. While folks around me in the overheated Galaxy were laughing at this overwrought Iowa parable about an obsessive-compulsive woman driven to win a butter-carving contest at all costs (read: Michele Bachmann), star Jennifer Garner can't compare with Nicole Kidman in To Die For. I neither laughed at nor reviled her, I just felt sorry for her.

While the movie played okay with Telluride audiences (although the LAT's John Horn tried to convince me otherwise), it's getting a mixed critical response (a sampling is below) which does not bode well for any award-season hopes. TWC will have a tough time getting audiences between the coasts to see this movie made by smart people making fun of stupid people. This movie could be a tweener, neither smart-house nor populist fare. Remember the New Yorker cartoon with two well-heeled couples sitting on a porch? "We saw Honky Tonk Freeway. It ruined our August."

HitFix:

"A sweet farce that takes unexpected digs at conservative politics, racism, liberals and, yes, the possibly unhealthy passion for butter carving in some Midwestern states,..In many ways, "Butter" has a lot of familiar elements of comedies such as "Juno," "Waitress" and a few Christopher Guest mini-classics ("Best in Show" comes to mind), but the unexpected political jabs and the butter carving culture make it more original than it may appear at first glance,..[Olivia Wilde] pretty much steals the show as a slutty stripper trying to get a little bit of revenge."

ThePlaylist:

"employs long and broad satirical strokes that never land many effective laughs or blows,..Endeavoring to be a political satire, a sex comedy, a quirky character study, a send-up of the competitiveness in our society, and a commentary on race relations, this comedy also desperately wants you to think it’s heart-warming,..Acting problems arise across the board early on."

THR:

"The film is an often edgy comedy masquerading as a political satire about the skullduggery and shenanigans surrounding a butter-carving contest in Iowa,..The film has plenty of laughs and a slew of great supporting turns,..The satire sometimes loses traction, and the competing voice-overs begin to seem random and pointless, but the narrative is clear enough and the laughs well-earned."

UPDATED:

Variety:

Not since Last Tango in Paris has butter been so subversive onscreen as it is in this hypocrisy-skewering, dairy-carving comedy, Butter, a wicked Midwest satire with razor blades stashed beneath its bright candy-apple surface.

First Showing:

The film works on many levels, mostly as a comedy with some hilarious laugh-out-loud moments, but it also has some emotion to it and a good message by the end. The cast, besides Garner who often was far too often over-the-top in her performance, is where this film really shines…
It's a delightful, light indie comedy that hearkens back to Alexander Payne's Election and never takes itself too seriously, but keeps heart at the forefront throughout its humorous story.