“Bread And Butter” is a film that deserves to break out.
Much more than just a fun romantic comedy (which it is), the film represents the kind of work we should all be yearning for from the studio system. Not just a great film about women, but a great film, period. A character study aided by a wicked sense of humour and a fierce intellect.
Written and directed by Liz Manashil, from her own experiences, the screenplay has an almost Woody Allen vibe, albeit without the obsessions about death.
Focusing on 30 year old Amelia (Christine Weatherup), a woman stuck in a lonely, mundane existence, working in a doctor’s office, her head constantly in a book and still, frustratingly virginal, the story revolves around her quest to find Mr. Right, the plot driven by hand written notes she finds inside one of her second hand books.
But this synopsis makes it seem like formulaic rom-com territory, which is to do this superb little film a dis-service.
Its far too well crafted for such comparisons.
The film is shot to display contrasts. Amelia lives a drab, internal existence, her apartment, her office desk, all draped in dull reds and browns, while exteriors are bathed in sunshine and life, though Amelia cycles through her surroundings, oblivious to such a display.
Unlike most romantic comedies, “Bread and Butter” is paced deliberately slow, reflecting Amelia’s painfully awkward personality. Tiptoeing through her own love story, the film is more about the character coming out of her shell than about the satisfaction of finding that special someone.
The direction is un-obtrusive, scenes mainly shot with a no-nonsense style, Manashil a director clearly aware that the script does most of the storytelling for us, with a keen ear for dialogue that keeps things fresh and funny.
“I can see your hymen from here.”
Sure, there is a love triangle of sorts, but the film fits best when focusing on it’s protagonist, more a film about behaviour than action.
It takes real talent to carry an entire film, but Weatherup is the perfect actor for this sort of material. The balance of comedy and tragedy is always difficult, yet her work here is effortless. Weatherup takes a woman who, with her endless quirks and mannerisms, could very easily have been overplayed to an annoying degree by a lesser actor, and makes her both achingly real and instantly loveable.
Bobby Moynihan is also excellent, taking his SNL reputation and subverting it into a marvellous portrait of quiet anxiety. Watching him simply sit down on a couch is a treat, his facial expression suggesting a baby bear that just saw its own reflection and realised it was scared of baby bears.
The portrait of female friendship is also nicely played between Weatherup and Lauren Lapkus, last seen running from dinosaurs in some little seen franchise picture, adorable as friend Deirdre, who steals scenes on a simple glance or a laugh, without even appearing to notice such.
The crew had a large female contingent, a concept still, remarkably, at odds with the film industry on the whole, but laces the film with an authenticity, the characters more than just quirk and beauty.
In this film, the women drive the story, rather than sitting in the passenger’s seat.
Indeed, the ideas of femininity in today’s society, are explored with refreshing honesty. The film opens on our heroine masturbating and doesn’t give her an easy time for the duration. Yet, this isn’t gross out gag territory. This isn’t a film about a girl with ejaculate in her hair, just to get a few laughs. It is a film about loneliness, about the need to find someone, even if that someone turns out to be yourself.
How many studio pictures take the time to really talk about that?