"Bread and Butter" (2015) - “Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakes.” - Carl Jung
For Amelia (Christine Weatherup), she dreams of “living in a French movie”, having a boyfriend and losing her virginity.
While the former request seems like an impossible task, the latter two appear more than plausible.
Unfortunately, this polite and thoughtful – but also mousy - woman does not possess enough confidence or know-how to grab life by the tail, and therefore has parked herself in neutral for about 30 years.
Amelia seems like the girl who was not asked to the prom and coped with the rejection by reading in her bedroom for hours, days, weeks, months, and years on end.
(Personal note: I did not go to my prom either.)
With therapists and life coaches dotting the 21st Century landscape, Amelia’s problem – for women and men - certainly is not uncommon, and the quirky, indie comedy “Bread and Butter” takes on a familiar – but gratifying - story arc of an underdog’s personal journey to (potential) self-actualization.
Writer/director Liz Manashil purposely creates a limited world for Amelia, and this character knows her environment well.
She lives in a “dead-end town” in California, rides her bike everywhere, enjoys her best friend (Lauren Lapkus), has nightly dinners with her clueless parents, and works as a secretary for a clumsy life coach (Eric Lange).
Dr. Wellburn (Lange) tries to help Amelia with her perpetual singleness by repeatedly setting her up with his perpetually single client, Daniel (Bobby Moynihan).
Hey, they both have that in common, right?
Actually he is trying to help Daniel more than Amelia, but I digress.
I suppose Dr. Wellburn is well-intentioned, but also wildly inappropriate.
Amelia does venture out to seek love on her own, and may have finally found it with an eccentric guy named Leonard (Micah Hauptman), and the audience - at least initially - garners some hope that her wishes might come true.
The audience will also find Manashil offers a dialogue-driven movie where the characters divulge an abundance of personal details and traits.
For instance, Amelia has trouble finding her keys, because she usually leaves them in the bathroom.
Leonard’s uses his biological mother’s last name, because we live in a patriarchal society.
Daniel's peculiar personality shines through when he notices Amelia’s “veins don’t seem to stick out”, and explains that the saying “bread and butter” means he hopes they don’t become separated.
At the film’s center, Weatherup is effective at pulling on our sympathetic and empathetic strings with her engaging performance.
Most everyone has gone through the growing pains of dating for the first time, so it is easy to champion Amelia’s cause for finding love and happiness.
We see her wins and excitement, but also her mistakes, her obsessions and her over-reliance on the “magic” of fate.
The movie, however, lacks a certain amount of “magic” with its comedic payoffs.
The film presents original characters with amusing traits, but the lack of induced belly laughs feels pretty obvious.
I smiled quite a bit, but did not laugh a whole lot.
As “Bread and Butter” played on, I was reminded of very funny indies like “Ghost World” and “Juno".
This film carries similar smart-talk qualities, but I wished more hilarious moments found their way into the movie.
“Bread and Butter” is a enjoyable ride, but not necessary a hearty, rich experience.
Then again, the script plays attention to small details, and anyone who appreciates good storytelling will feel warm and involuntary grins across their faces.
This is Amelia’s journey, and we hope she awakes after looking inside, and that is why “Bread and Butter” might stick with you. (2.5/4 stars)
"Bread and Butter" is now available via cable, satellite and digital.