BY JENNA SIMPSON
I had never heard of butter carving before hearing about this movie. Apparently, at state and county fairs all over the U.S., huge blocks of butter are moulded, shaped, and scraped into quite amazing sculptures in refrigerated rooms by competitive butter carvers. To this city girl, raised in the suburbs, this sounded, well, kind of ridiculous. But once I Googled “butter carving,” I learned how incredible these butter sculptures can be, and also how stiff the competition can be.
Enter Butter. Set in the high-stakes world of Iowa county butter carving, it’s a dark comedy that essentially examines themes of competition for winning’s sake, the power and prestige that can come with making a name for oneself in any world (especially where there isn’t that much else to do), finding one’s inner talents despite poor odds, and even of ambition in women who have lived in their husbands’ shadows and seek to forge their own path.
Jennifer Garner, always one of my favourites, displays her growing comedic talents quite nicely here, playing the wife of a retired, state butter-carving-champ who can’t stand to see her family’s butter-carving legacy pass to someone else. She enters the competition herself, uncovering her own ambition and surprising skill, and is pitted against an adorable little orphaned black girl named Destiny (Yara Shahidi), who has natural artistic flair for the art of butter carving and is cheered on by her new foster parents, Alicia Silverstone and Rob Corddry. Ty Burrell, Olivia Wilde, and Hugh Jackman round out the star-studded cast.
There are some really funny moments here, but overall the movie is a bit flat. The best performances are Garner’s hilariously perfect, kind of crazy, stop-at-nothing-to-win ambitious housewife-turned-artiste de beurre and Jackman’s lovesick, used car salesman who would do anything for her.
Despite the great cast and these two (and other) solid performances, Butter was definitely a flop. It felt flat and emotionless throughout, and Wilde’s character was completely unnecessary and took away from the rest of the story. The acting was mostly fine, but something, some crucial movie magic spark, was missing.
Shahidi was pretty adorable, though. I’m sure we will see more of her to come.