Chuck & Buck

USA 2000

Reviewed by Edward Lawrenson


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

Buck lives in California with his mother. When she dies, Buck's estranged boyhood friend Chuck arrives at the funeral with his fiancée Carlyn. When Buck grabs Chuck's crotch, Chuck leaves. Buck moves to Los Angeles and begins stalking Chuck. He writes a play, called Hank and Frank, based on their friendship, to be staged in the theatre near Chuck's office. Visiting Chuck's house, Buck suggests he and Chuck indulge in the sex games they used to play when they were kids. Chuck refuses and tells Buck to leave him alone.

Buck befriends Sam, the actor performing Hank (the play's equivalent of Chuck). After drinking in his place, Buck makes a move on Sam, who rejects him. Chuck reluctantly accompanies Carlyn to the only performance of Hank and Frank; after watching the play, Carlyn storms off. Buck tells Chuck that he will leave him alone if they have sex one last time. Chuck acquiesces. Buck moves in opposite Sam, who has forgiven him. Later, he is invited to Chuck and Carlyn's wedding.


In this, Miguel Arteta's second feature, the title character Buck writes a play, a thinly veiled autobiographical account of his childhood friendship with Chuck, now a bigshot in the music industry. Beverly, the theatre manager hired to direct the play, doesn't quite know what to make of it. "It's like a homoerotic misogynistic love story," she hazards.

Watching Chuck & Buck, you recognise her bewilderment. Buck, played by the film's writer Mike White, is an oddball, a 27-year-old man-child who sucks on lollipops, still plays with toy cars and blunders into situations, blithely unaware of the adult tensions underlying them. In one sense, Buck's childlike take on things cuts through the frippery of Chuck's LA life: at a party Chuck is having for his record-industry colleagues, Buck shoots dead any attempt at smalltalk; later he admires Buck's place "I like your house... it's kind of old personey." The use of a child or childlike protagonist to puncture the pretensions of adulthood is common enough in contemporary Hollywood (from Big to Forrest Gump), but what makes Chuck & Buck so fresh is that it pushes the logic of this device to absurd degrees. Buck's attempts to reignite his friendship with Chuck are funny (like Mike Leigh, Arteta, whose first film Star Maps was unreleased in the UK, knows how to turn embarrassment into laughs) but there's also something sad, if not dysfunctional about Buck's refusal to let go of his childish ways.

The film takes on a darker, more unsettling edge when it becomes clear that Buck's attachment to Chuck stems from the sex games they used to play when they were 11 years old - "Suck and fuck" as Buck remembers one of them. At first, you're not sure whether to trust Buck's recollections: shot, like the rest of the film, on digital video, his flashbacks have a desaturated, over-exposed quality to them, like memories half imagined, as insubstantial as the misty wisps that billow from Buck's humidifier. But once Chuck, in a brilliantly played, disquieting scene, confirms what happened between them as boys, the film is on difficult uncertain ground: in questioning the standard notion that children of that age are wholly desexualised, Arteta does a spot of taboo-breaking which iconoclastic philosopher Michel Foucault could be proud of - and it's certainly a long way from the saccharine depictions of childhood Hollywood tends to favour. But in making light comedy out of the premise, Arteta soft pedals the way these two men might have been affected by participating in such precocious sexual experiments; worse still, in poking fun at the idea that Buck still fancies Chuck, the director seems to connect Buck's homosexuality - he is also taken with macho-man Mike, who acts (ineptly) in his play - to his arrested development, as if his gay crushes were a further sign of emotional immaturity. But just as Beverly's damning description of Buck's play doesn't quite do the beguilingly amateurish performance justice, the sour note struck here by the film is sugared by Arteta's many graceful and delicate touches. For all its rebarbative moments, Chuck & Buck is a film which you can't quite get a fix on: it's a movie about child sex which is also as airy and sweetly likeable as anything you'll see this year. What makes it such strange viewing is that it's hard to tell whether this is a sign of Arteta's achievement as a film-maker or his failing.


Miguel Arteta
Matthew Greenfield
Mike White
Director of Photography
Chuy Chávez
Jeff Betancourt
Production Designer
Renée Davenport
Music/Music Supervision
Joey Waronker
Tony Maxwell
Smokey Hormel
©Miguel Arteta/Matthew Greenfield & Blow Up Pictures, LLC
Production Companies
Artisan Entertainment & Blow Up Pictures present
a Flan De Coco film
Executive Producers
Jason Kliot
Joana Vicente
Co-executive Producers
Thomas Brown
Charles J. Rusbasan
Judith Zarin
Michael Escott
Scott M. Cort
Beth Colt
Associate Producers
Gina Kwon
Jason Zolov
Jocelyn Jansons
Abby Schwarzwalder
Production Supervisor
Alberto Gieco
Production Manager
Wendy Riseborough
Post-production Supervisor
Alberto Garcia
Additional Post Supervisor
Steven Kaminsky
Assistant Director
Jennifer Schmidt
Meredith Tucker
Miranda Thompson
Nina-Marie Gardner
Additonal Editor
Pam Martin
Set Decorator
Isabelle Stamper
Costume Designer
Elaine Montalvo
Costume Design Consultant
Jeanne Yang
Key Make-up/Hair
Jane Nan Kelly
Title Design
Andy Goldman
Theme Song
Gwendolyn Stafford
Additional Vocals
Petra Haden
Music Consultants
Margaret Yen
Peter Afterman
Jessica Clements
"Freedom of the Heart" - Gwendolyn Sanford, Smokey Hormel, Joey Waronker; "Look Both Ways before You Cross" - Petra Haden; "It's Kind of Complicated" - Stephen Thomas Cavit, Jim Knodle; "Nwo-tew" - Josh Mancell; "Air a danser", "Paul's Dance", "Prelude and Yodel", "Nothing Really Blue" - Penguin Café Orchestra; "Eye Protection" - Ralph Carney; "A World of Joy and Harmony" - Tony Maxwell; "Horny" - Tracy and the
Hindenberg Ground Crew; "Astral Plane" - Modern Lovers; "The Last Stand, Still" - Stephen Thomas Cavit; "Gorgeous" - Girl Next Door; "V'adoro Pupille" - Amanda Tan; "Bittersweet"
Sound Design
Ann Scibelli
Sound Mixer
Yehuda Maayan
Re-recording Mixers
Ken Teaney
Mark Rozett
Marshall Garlington
Re-recording Engineer
Michael A. Morongell
Supervising Sound Editor
Andrew DeCristofaro
Dialogue Editors
John C. Stuver
Claire Freeman
Nancy Nugent
Sound Effects Editors
Jeff K. Brunello
Adam Gillick
Shawn Kennelly
Eric Thompson
Sean Rowe
Joan Rowe
Eric Thompson
Mike White
Buck O'Brien
Chris Weitz
Charlie 'Chuck' Sitter
Lupe Ontiveros
Beth Colt
Paul Weitz
Maya Rudolph
Mary Wigmore
Paul Sand
Gino Buccola
Annette Murphy
Tommy's mom
Glory Simon
Doug Kieffer
Jonathan Brown
Ruthie Bram
Giovanni Gieco
T.J. Wilkins
Ezra Pugh
Erin Espinoza
Megan McCaw
theatre kids
Linda Lichter
bank teller
Meredith Tucker
Zak Penn
Josh Weintraub
Tony Maxwell
Vince Duffy
Dana Baratta
Melissa Booth
Pamela Gordon
Buck's mom
Josephina J. Rocha
Jesse Lee Thomas
young Chuck [photos]
Caleb Wilson
young Chuck [film]
Nathaniel Olderman
young Buck
Chuy Chávez
Adam Storms Parker
Paul Gelfman
James Mooney
Damon Huss
Jamie Hook
Miranda Thompson
cocktail waitress
Ron Yerxa
Yehuda Maayan
man at wedding
Metrodome Distribution Ltd
8,603 feet
95 minutes 36 seconds
In Colour
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011