Male infantilism, from BIG to Big Daddy, continues to elicit a perverse fascination in Hollywood. But unlike The Kid, the defiantly non-formulaic Chuck and Buck – it was shot cheaply on digital video – has not been Disneyfied. This hilarious and haunting movie is a shocker in the best sense of the word – it explodes easy definitions of childhood, friendship and sexuality. Buck, superbly played by Mike White, who also wrote the astutely nuanced screenplay, invites his buddy Chuck (Chris Weitz) to his mother’s funeral. The boys haven’t seen each other in fifteen years. Chuck is now an L.A. music exec with a fancy BMW and a fancier fiancée, Carlyn (Beth Colt). Buck is still sucking lollipops and playing childhood games – such as grabbing Chuck’s crotch. Freaked out, Chuck returns to L.A. and alleged normalcy, but Buck appears on his doorstep ready for more games.
Put away any fears that Chuck and Buck is a homophobic thriller with White as a gay stalker who goes psycho and Weitz as his unwitting victim. The film also dodges the Forrest Gump trap of turning Buck into a holy fool. White, a former writer for TV’s Dawson’s Creek and Freaks and Geeks, delivers an uncaricatured script that is both humane and startling. “I was tired of writing about people who are too wonderful to exist,” says White, who joined with gifted director Miguel Arteta (Star Maps) to reconcile the past with the grown-up demands of the present.
To rattle Chuck, Buck hires Beverly (the wise and wondrous Lupe Ontiveros), the manager of a struggling children’s theater, to direct his play, Hank and Frank, which Beverly aptly describes as “a homoerotic, misogynistic love story.” Buck even casts a no-talent actor, Sam (Paul Weitz, Chris’ real-life brother), because Sam resembles Chuck. The Pirandellian fracas that follows spins off in unexpectedly funny and touching directions that mark White as an outstanding new talent and Chuck and Buck as one of the year’s best and most provocative films.