I first learned about this week’s Sweet Streams in the way I do most movies nowadays— through a press release in my work email. The chance to interview the director and talent of a movie is an opportunity I pass up usually, but after recently watching this film on Netflix, I’ve never yearned for the chance more. I regret not being able to cover this film at the time of release to give it the proper promotion it deserved.
Directed by Miguel Arteta (Beatriz at Dinner) and co-written with Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development), Duck Butter simply nails the passionate energy in newfound relationships with an authenticity lacking in most romantic films (even indie ones). Although categorizing Duck Butter as romance seems both passé and limiting because this film is the exact opposite— it’s simply so modern and abundant in emotion and depth. Arteta and Shawkat have written a script that encapsulates the heated excitement that new love brings while presenting the realities of how personal limitations can hinder that romance.
Or maybe I’m taking the wrong lessons from this film? Who knows. But Duck Butter is so fantastically written, directed and acted that anyone who’s gone through their share of relationships will find a significant point to relate to.
Shawkat plays Nima, a struggling actress who meets Sergio (Laia Costa), a singer and artist at a lesbian bar one night. Although their personalities are extremely different— Nima is more manic and anxious about the world while Sergio is a free spirit— their instant chemistry is electric. They bond over listening to each other’s bad relationship experiences and decide to stage an experiment: to stay with each other for twenty-four hours straight to learn about each other, while having sex every hour on the hour. At first their connection holds strong, buoyed by passionate love-making. But their disparate personalities take more dramatic turns, and soon both Nima and Sergio find it hard to uphold the budding relationship.
Shawkat is a natural at playing Nima, a neurotic depressive, while Costa plays Sergio with both the joie de vivre of a child experiencing rain for the first time and a dramatic fury. For a film whose main theme seems to be honesty within relationships, what resonates most is the strain between two lovers when both parties aren’t fully honest with themselves. And that’s something good sex can’t absolve.
Fun anecdote: I was able to cover the press junket for the fourth season release of Arrested Development for this infernal rag about six years ago. It took place at a Beverly Hills hotel, and I walked into the wrong hotel room where I was supposed to check in, walking into the room with the AD talent instead, including Shawkat. She kindly helped me find the correct room that was meant for the other journalists. Thanks Alia!
Duck Butter is available to stream on Netflix, Youtube, Amazon Prime, Google Play and Netflix.
Aimee Murillo is calendar editor and frequently covers film and previously contributed to the OCW’s long-running fashion column, Trendzilla. Don’t ask her what her favorite movie is unless you want to hear her lengthy defense of Showgirls.