When neurotic fledgling actress Naima (Alia Shawkat) struggles to impress in a low budget indie movie, she drowns her sorrows at a local bar. There she is bewitched by confident wannabe singer Sergio (Laia Costa). After spending the night together, the two women make a pact. They will fast forward the dating experience by spending the next 24 hours together. This way they can get through every up and down right away. So long as they also have sex every hour of course.
The vast majority of Duck Butter takes places in Sergio’s house. And the characters do indeed strive to stay awake all night, and have sex every hour. So the watchability is reliant on how appealing the characters are and how snappy the dialogue is. But as is often the case with indie movies, the long conversation scenes are full of mumbled dialogue and stretched out moments where the intensity of feeling is portrayed by flagged up ‘moments’ rather than naturalistic evolution.
Shawkat’s self-doubting habits are believable and well played. Her attraction to the ‘free spirit’ of Sergio is engaging. When she says that no-one has stuck around long enough for her to love them, the intensity of the relationship is clear for her. However, the character of Sergio has many impulsive quirks that work better in a script than on camera. When she is literally chasing Naima around the house with excrement in a frying pan (don’t ask) it’s clear the movie is reaching for ways to make her eccentric. The attraction feels real at parts, but mostly one way.
It’s commendable though how normalised the lesbian sex aspect is. This isn’t a movie shot for the male gaze. Due to the on the hour sex agreement, when the two leads do get it their connection is comfortable. The casual nudity peppered throughout the film definitely isn’t done for titillation. It’s hard to open a fridge door erotically, naked or not. However, the sex scenes are so frequent that come the latter half of the movie you end up crying out for a more emotional connection.
Duck Butter feels longer than its run time. The ups and downs of a condensed date make for hit and miss scenes. Plus the temperamental outbursts of Sergio feel more like exercises in increasing run time. By the time other characters come into their ongoing ‘date’ the next morning, it’s already too late for them to make an impact. The movie has some good acting but needed a punchier script and, frankly, better characters to spend an hour and a half with.
Words by Michael Record