For anyone that has ever been insecure about their weight—or realistically, any aspect of themselves, or their bodies—dramedy Butter might be the perfect movie for you. While the synopsis may seem outlandish to the casual viewer, writer/director Paul A. Kaufman crafts a story that deals with dark themes in a positive way. Based on a book by Erin Jade Lange, Butter speaks to the outsider in us all, and feels like the epitome of the famous phrase: “it gets better.”
A lonely, morbidly obese boy bearing the nickname Butter (Alex Kersting) has had it with life, officially. Triggered by a news broadcast of an airline saying that people who cannot fit into one seat must pay for two, Butter has landed on a way to go out in style. At midnight on New Years Eve, Butter will host a live webcast of his final meal, essentially eating himself to death! With Butter’s mom taking comfort in feeding him and his dad snubbing him completely “since he got fat,” Butter is utterly alone in the midst of adolescent high school hell.
Butter, who has his own blog, begins getting attention at school for this big event. People who bullied him or otherwise never showed him the time of day suddenly take interest. Classmates begin placing bets on if he will go through with it, and make suggestions for foods he can consume for this final meal menu. Butter has a hard time figuring out whether they are all simply just being nice to him out of pity, or whether they genuinely like him.
Complicating matters even further, Butter has been catfishing Anna (McKaley Miller), a popular girl at school that he has been “in love” with for quite some time. Butter pretends to be a jock from a private school named JP. Anna confides in JP like no one else in her life, but would she be able to handle it if she knew the truth? Is this movie asking the viewer to condone catfishing? Butter attempts to swoon her with his true talent—his saxophone skills—while keeping his identity hidden. Butter’s musicality is fun to watch, and adds a suave sophistication to the movie’s soundtrack.
Clocking in at nearly two hours, Butter leaves ample time for the fallout and consequences of Butter’s final meal. It does indeed drag in a couple of spots (mainly towards the middle), but when it is good, it is great. Every relationship in Butter’s life is strengthened by sharp writing and the bold vulnerability of Alex Kersting’s performance. Adorable asides, like Butter’s newfound crew helping him with a bucket list wearing literal buckets on their heads, are cute; they speak to the freewheeling fun of one’s teenage years.
Truth be told, Butter is a charming little movie that handles heavy subject matter in a Nickelodeon-style way. In different hands, this could have gone in a very different and even more horrifying direction. But there is a light hopefulness here that I really admired. Messages of positivity are more than welcome in an era where the grip of a worldwide pandemic has threatened to stick around for far longer than anyone could have anticipated. When a film does its job so well that anyone can find an aspect of it to enjoy, it deserves to be commended with far more than a complimentary stick of butter.
Butter forms its final meal when it premieres in limited release theaters on Friday, February 25th.