Where to start with this new teenage rom-com Butter? This is timeless story about an obese teenager who decides to eat himself to death. Yeah…you heard that right. A depressed young man makes a desperate plea for attention and support. Along with that, he has been lying online for a while trying to connect with the prettiest girl in school (who loves this fake online version of himself). None of this can possibly go wrong…right? Writer-director Paul A. Kaufman attempts to take on some serious topics in this film.
But is Kaufman able to do right by those timely and sensitive issues? Absolutely not. This new comedy is quite tone deaf. There is victim blaming of a teenager who attempted suicide. What the hell? There are some seriously insensitive comments made by the adults in the room about obesity, yet our lead just accepts it. As separation grew after watching the film, there was a certain amount of hate I felt towards this film. As someone who has struggled with my weight my whole life, this should have been an inspiring experience. But instead, it felt cruel and mean-spirited. At least they handle bullying in a respectful way.
But what about the rest of the film? This is a comedy so there should be plenty of laughs. Kaufman’s script feels comfortable focusing on some low brow humor throughout. There are plenty of silly moments throughout the film as it leans into its high school setting. Butter has fun making new friends (after his problematic announcement of his last meal). When the film is light-hearted, it is a bit of fun. But then there are moments throughout the film where it gets quite heavy but Kaufman struggles to balance the tonal shifts. The film especially struggles when it is trying to get its messages across because it is so heavy-handed.
Can the actors in the film elevate the story and writing? Alex Kersting does a fine job in the role of Butter. He is committed to the character both when he is a kind and supportive protagonist and when he is not the most likable. He has a great relationship with his music teacher Mykelti Williamson as they have plenty of chemistry. This connection over sax playing is one of the best parts of the film. Mira Sorvino is a kind presence as Butter’s mother even if she is more cliché than nuance. The rest of the young cast do what they need to do (even when they are sitting in front of a cheap green screen or on low budget sets).
Does this film deliver some laughs? Yeah. Does the story hit on some fun and silly high school coming-of-age beats? It has its moments. But is this the kind of film you should be looking at when it comes to important and sensitive issues that are affecting many people? Not. Butter does not portray a sensitive and productive outlook.