Alive and Lubricated (November 21/05)
While one can't help but appreciated the good intentions with which Alive and Lubricated has clearly been made, it becomes increasingly difficult to overlook the similarities to other, better movies of this ilk. There's little doubt right from the get go that the Butler brothers - Jason and Brett, both of whom wrote the screenplay - are looking to emulate the laid-back vibe of progenitors such as Swingers and Clerks, but it's just as obvious that the two aren't remotely as adept as Jon Favreau or Kevin Smith in terms of writing dialogue that sounds authentic. There's a strained, artificial quality to the film's many conversations (nobody, outside of a sitcom, actually talks this way), a problem that's exacerbated by the uniformly mediocre performances. That virtually all of the film's male characters are women-hating scumbags certainly doesn't help matters, and it's hard not to wonder how these jerks keep landing dates with actual human ladies. Having said that, there is a rough-around-the-edges sort of charm to Alive and Lubricated that prevents it from becoming an out-and-out failure.
Bums (November 30/05)
Though it may be technically more accomplished, Bums - Jason and Brett Butler's follow-up to Alive and Lubricated - actually comes off as an inferior effort, primarily due to the film's lack of plot. The majority of Bums follows several barely-developed characters as they engage in a series of uninteresting conversations, most of which revolve around sex and relationships. The screenplay - penned by Brett - is generally peppered with dialogue that sounds artificial and overly rehearsed, a problem that's exacerbated by a reliance on pop culture references (Pulp Fiction is singled out time and time again). And as was the case with Alive and Lubricated, the viewer isn't given a single character to root for; this time around, at least, both men and women come off as sex-obsessed sleazeballs. The Butler brothers are clearly not entirely untalented, but Bums (as well as Alive and Lubricated) feels more like a third-rate Tarantino ripoff than a wholly original piece of work.
Confusions of an Unmarried Couple
While Confusions of an Unmarried Couple admittedly marks a clear step forward for the Butler brothers in terms of its look, there's little doubt that the movie is ultimately hindered by the presence of a central character that couldn't possibly be more unappealing - with the end result an effort that's well acted and handsomely shot but otherwise entirely unengaging. The film casts co-director and writer Brett Butler as Dan, a slovenly layabout who returns to his ex-girlfriend's house to retrieve a few items and subsequently finds himself drawn into a heated discussion over their failed relationship. The Butler brothers - Brett and Jason - have infused Confusions of an Unmarried Couple with an unexpectedly cinematic feel that generally belies its low-budget, cramped limitations, and there's certainly no denying effectiveness of Naomi M. Johnson's performance as Dan's long-suffering ex Lisa. Unfortunately, all the positive attributes in the world can't disguise the fact that Dan is portrayed as such a misogynistic and utterly reprehensible scumbag that even the most laid-back viewer will want to reach into the screen and throttle him. That Lisa tolerates Dan's behavior even for a minute is nothing short of baffling, though it eventually does become clear that she's suffering from some serious personality problems of her own (why else would she have tolerated - let along stayed with - this douchebag for so long?) The creeping realization that much of Confusions of an Unmarried Couple's running time is devoted to their bickering cements the film's status as a strangely unpleasant piece of work, yet - to be fair - Johnson's surprisingly strong performance does go a long way towards maintaining a sporadically tolerable vibe.