‘Bucky F*cking Dent’: The Truth Is, David Duchovny’s Wacky Comedy Is Way Out There – Tribeca Film Festival

For his sophomore feature, the follow-up to 2004’s little-seen indie House of D, David Duchovny serves up a similarly niche confection, a sometimes-zany black comedy based on his 2016 novel of the same name. The elevator pitch is a tough one; though it’s funny in places, the tone is all over the place, one minute aspiring for the arch, stoner laughs of PTA’s Inherent Vice, the next veering into straightforward sentiment with a rambling final section that hits a similar highway to the 2006 Sundance hit Little Miss Sunshine. There’s also the f-word: the looming curse of American baseball movies that don’t have the word Field in the title, which could hamper its commercial prospects in the wider world.

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The setting is 1978, and Yankee Stadium peanut vendor Ted Fullilove (Logan Marshall-Green) has finally finished his novel, the weighty Magnum Opie. He thinks it’s a masterpiece, but his agent (a very funny Pamela Adlon) is not impressed. “You’ve given me 756 pages of crickets,” she says. “It’s like fake French New Wave — you bashed me over the head with a baguette for three hours.” Ted, she concedes, is a very good writer, he just doesn’t have a story in him. “You need to commit a crime,” she  says, “then come back and show me genius in five years’ time.”

Sadly, this wonderful little scene sets the tone for a picaresque, Confederacy of Dunces-style satire that never materializes; in short order, Ted is summoned by his estranged father Marty (Duchovny), who is dying of cancer and being treated with palliative care. Marty used to be a big shot in advertising back in the day, but he’s happy to throw his portfolio onto the fire (“A bonfire of inanities”). When Marty isn’t looking, Ted pokes into the ashes and pulls out the manuscript for Marty’s unpublished novel, The Double-mint Man, which turns out to more autobiographical than it seems (“It’s not a novel — it’s a journal”) and which sets Ted off on a search for his father’s long-lost lover, Eva.

In the meantime, Marty’s complicated obsession with the majorly failing Red Sox is taking its toll on his health. All his life, Marty has worn his fandom like an albatross, as the team began its current losing streak began on the day he was born. Ted notes that the older man’s already precarious condition gets visibly worse when the sports results come in, so he hatches a plan with Marty’s friends to shield him from the truth, making up fake newspaper headlines, staging freak weather events so that games can be “rained off”, and paying the pre-teen newspaper boy to curse the team’s sudden change in fortune.

What all this comes down to is a father and son failing to communicate — Ted calls it “semi-broken people trying to heal”. Marty calls its “just a couple of assholes trying to talk to each other” — and the two actors have a definite odd-couple chemistry, even if Duchovny does seem a little too young for such a jaded role. But whatever you call it, Bucky F*cking Dent ends exactly the way you think it might, with a climactic ballgame of dubious importance that the pair may or may not get to in time, learning the inevitable lessons about life, love and family along the way. It’s a shame, because, up till then, there’s been some interesting filigree here, threaded through a plot that is every bit the “dead 19th century bourgeois convention” that Ted, AKA Edgar Allen Peanut, is seen complaining about at the start.

Title: Bucky F*cking Dent
Festival: Tribeca (Spotlight Narrative)
Director: David Duchovny
Screenwriter: David Duchovny
Cast: Logan Marshall-Green, David Duchovny, Stephanie Beatriz, Jason Beghe, Evan Handler, Pamela Adlon, Daphne Rubin-Vega
Running time: 1 hr 45 min
Sales agent:  Great Escape/CAA

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