Buttwhistle Review
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When you’re working in the low-budget film world, sometimes you can get by on charm alone. When you’re working with a mixed bag of talent bolstered by a few character-actor cameos, sometimes you can get by on charm alone. When your film’s plot meanders around a bit before fizzling out without ever really cohering, sometimes you can get by on charm alone. Tenney Fairchild’s Buttwhistle boasts an awful lot of charm, but sometimes charm just isn’t enough.

“Buttwhistle” is one of the nicknames of Ogden Confer (Trevor Morgan), an easygoing twentysomething whose casual ride through life has hit a bump with the recent loss of his best friend, Rose (Analeigh Tipton). While out on a parkour run, he literally catches Beth (Elizabeth Rice) as she falls from a rooftop. Beth takes an immediate and obsessive interest in Ogden, and the more he tries to remain aloof, the harder she forces her way into his life.

There’s no denying that writer/director/producer Fairchild brings a unique voice to Buttwhistle, captured perfectly in Morgan’s performance. Ogden Confer may be the most likeable slacker to grace the cinema since Lloyd Dobler lifted a boombox over his head. What he lacks in ambition he makes up for in wit and a willingness to see the best in everyone. His repartee with Rose, who mostly appears as a memory and figment of his imagination, shines over the rest of the film.

Instances of that voice pop up in the surrounding cast as well. Tipton does great work as Rose, and it’s easy to see why Ogden would have such a hard time letting her go. Other quirky characters pop in and out of the narrative, ranging from Ogden’s too-cool-to-be-true parents (Katherine LaNasa and Wallace Langham) to a pair of existentialist detectives (Thomas Jane and Noah Dahl) who are investigating the disappearance of a couple of dogs. Of the entire cast, it’s Rice who fares the worst as the perplexingly unlikeable Beth. It’s a tricky role to begin with, but it’s pitched so shrill here that Ogden’s continuing to put up with her seems less like the kindness of a modern saint than the failings of the biggest sap on Earth.

In the end, that’s what brings Buttwhistle down. Not every film needs to follow a linear plot, but there’s so much meandering through oddness here that we’re left wondering about the point of the journey. Subplots rise and disappear without a trace, and several characters are left hanging in limbo. The pieces are all there for a genuinely likeable guy to learn a powerful lesson, but all that potential just drains away.

Buttwhistle is Fairchild’s second feature film, and the unique style he brings to the table could lead to much better things in the future. The same could be said for both Moore and Tipton, who each deserve a larger spotlight on the future. In the meantime, this film shows how far you can get on charm and how much farther there is to go.

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