Buttercup Bill is the psycho-sexual romance of Patrick and Pernilla- mutually obsessed soul mates clinging to childhood secrets. Closer to twins separated at birth than friends or lovers, they express love through sexual games of jealousy and subversion and seek escape from a reality they believe has no place for them.
Buttercup Bill, the sexually-charged pseudo-romance from first time directing duo Emillie Richard-Froozan and Remy Bennett (who also stars) is, to put it lightly, not a film for everyone. Nor does it want to be, or try to be. There are always smaller, interesting films coming out in and around the blockbusters occupying the summer season – some of them good, and well worth checking out over much of the big budget fodder; others, well, less so. Unfortunately Buttercup Bill slides unwillingly into the latter, albeit via the scenic route at a leisurely pace.
For large portions, watching the film reminded me of watching On The Road, Walter Salles’ excruciatingly slow-burning, esoteric character piece. To a more alarming extent, it also reminded me of Julia Leigh’s dreadful Sleeping Beauty; possibly the most pretentious film ever made. While it’s certainly more relatable than both (anything’s more relatable than Sleeping Beauty), we can never shake that constant feeling that what we’re watching is much too full of itself, always saying far less than it thinks. Such deliberately ambiguous dialogue and plotting can be used to great effect – one only need look in the direction of filmmakers like Gilliam or Lynch – but when it’s done for no other obvious reason than to ‘show off’, it just gets frustrating. It’s an effort spending time in the company of these cold characters when, most of the time, we either don’t know what they’re talking about or struggle to care why they’re talking about it. Not so much incomprehensible as deliberately and pretentiously esoteric; the film seemingly doesn’t actually want to be understood.
On the other hand, it has the perpetual damning with faint praise cinematic joke going for it: it looks absolutely gorgeous. Resorting to praising the “nice visuals” when trying to find something good to say about an otherwise bad film is easy – in the case of Buttercup Bill (not that it’s a bad film), it really does have nice visuals. Beguiling and seductive. If there’s anything drawing us into the story, it’s that. Equally terrific is a craft almost always overlooked – the editing. An editors job is far more than just stitching images together; they’re responsible for the look and feel of the film as much as the cinematographer – even the director. If I was a director watching Buttercup Bill, I’d be on the phone to Vanessa Roworth tomorrow asking her to cut my next movie. To make a long story short, for whatever flaws the film has, Buttercup Bill‘s post work is really impressive.
Perhaps subjectivity is the key to unlocking this enigma. If you happen to be partial to such stark character ambiguities and a lack of ostensible plot – and I can be, mind you – there might be something for you in here. The existential conversations and melancholy are mildly alluring, but as a whole the film is just too unapproachable, offering a coy smile before shunning whoever has the courage to make the first move. Perhaps, after all, it should be renamed Bittersweet Bill – there are morsels of a really interesting little film in here, only it’s all bogged down by this irritating, pretentious, self-imposed sense of self-worth.
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Directors: Remy Bennett, Emillie Richard-Froozan; Screenwriters: Remy Bennet, Emillie Richard-Froozan; Starring: Remy Bennet, Evan Louison, Mallory June, Pauly Lingerfelt, Monroe Robertson; Running time: 96 minutes; Certification: