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[whitespace] Mike White What a Sucker: After nearly 20 years, Buck (Mike White) still obsesses over Chuck, a childhood friend.

There's No Place Like Home

A twentysomething man refuses to grow up in 'Chuck & Buck'

By Davina Baum

A 27-YEAR-OLD MAN moves to L.A., holes himself up in a motel room, and sits down to write a play and get it staged. That's about where the standard storyline ends, and Chuck and Buck begins. Buck, the aspiring playwright, has just lost his mother; withdrawn $10,000 in cash from his bank account; packed up the station wagon with his matchbox toys, ubiquitous lollipops, and old records; and arrives in L.A. at the Little Prince Motel determined to rekindle a significant childhood relationship with Chuck. Writer Mike White (who plays Buck) has crafted a delicate story around the point at which boyish wonder and adult sensibilities clash.

These men--once the best of friends--couldn't be more different. Chuck (Chris Weitz) now goes by Charlie. He has embraced adulthood in all its mature glory: He's a successful record executive with a lovely fiancée and a carefully appointed house. Buck, on the other hand, has lived with his mother until her recent death, and is arrested in development, still an 11-year-old despite teeth rotted out from lollipop abuse and a pale blue Members Only jacket (his unwittingly "retro" wardrobe is hit-and-miss amongst the L.A. cognoscenti).

The plot swerves from typical idiot savant fare: Buck's childishness is not romanticized a la Forrest Gump. He is assigned an aggressively sexual nature from the outset. At his mother's wake--Charlie and Buck's reunion--Buck gropes at Charlie, attempting to re-establish the childhood experimentation that marked the relationship for Buck--and that Charlie has distanced himself from. Buck moves to L.A., not for friendship, but for love; he has never recovered from the boyish romance that the two shared.

Shot entirely in digital video, the film's washed-out flashbacks and faces framed in bright light complement some exceptional acting. White, in particular, offers an amazing rendering of the boy-man, from his charming anticipation at seeing Buck to the pain and disappointment of unrealized fantasies--writ large in extreme close-ups. The film's end modifies the standard coming-of-age trope, heralded by The Graduate-esque early scene with Buck escaping to the bottom of a swimming pool. But the modification is that it is not necessarily Buck, the child, who comes of age: The two men manage to meet in the middle, finding a reconciliation out of the conflict between hanging on too hard to childhood, and embracing maturity too strongly.

Chuck & Buck (R; 96 min.) directed by Miguel Arteta, written by Mike White, photographed by Chuy Chávez, and starring Mike White and Chris Weitz, plays in Palo Alto at the Palo Alto Sqare and opens Fri in San Jose at the Towne Theater.

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From the July 20-26, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

For more information about the San Jose/Silicon Valley area, visit sanjose.com.

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