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Chuck & Buck Review

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Following the death of his beloved mother, Buck invites his boyhood friend Chuck to the funeral. Buck subsequently transforms a casual invite to visit Chuck in Los Angeles into a full-scale stalking. In a desperate attempt to restore Chuck's affection for him, Buck decides to put on a play of their life together.

★★★★

A sensation at 2000's Sundance Festival, Chuck & Buck is thrilling in the most straightforward sense: you dare not guess what happens next. Like an embarrassing aunt at a wedding, watching the criminally naive Buck track down his childhood best friend, now happily married and unwilling to act like a ten year-old again, is an uncomfortable but compulsive experience for the viewer.

Like some of the year's most thought-provoking movies - Timecode, Dancer In The Dark - Chuck & Buck is shot on digital video; however, it's not the dim lighting or director Miguel Arteta's shaky camera work which makes for occasionally difficult viewing. The subject matter - stalking, pre-teen sexual experimentation, social inadequacy - will leave you squirming in your seat, even if you manage a hearty laugh.

It comes as a pleasant surprise to see the Weitz brothers, who scored big as director and producer of American Pie (1999), showcase altogether different talents here. Chris handles the difficult role of Chuck by leading with a strong chin and steady gaze, while big brother Paul grabs all the best lines and biggest laughs as Sam, the nice-but-dim actor Buck hires to play his stage version of Chuck.

But this is Mike White's movie all the way. As a screenwriter he has written himself a bold, indelible character, and matches it with a bug-eyed, lollipop-sucking performance, redolent of childhood wonder. The innocent Buck knows no shame and no boundaries, and as his attempts to convince Chuck of their 'special friendship' grow more desperate - and hilarious - he manages to draw the audience in. This is sympathy with the stalker.

While the more politically correct may wonder if the story-line is implicitly homophobic, writer and actor White invests Buck with such unquestioning tenderness that the salient point is surely not his sexual orientation, but his stunted development. He is simply too pure for this world.

A true original. Chuck & Buck won't make for the most relaxed evening's entertainment by any means, but it is funny and daring, and well worth the occasional shudder.