"It's good to stalk" appears to be the message of this low-budget oddity, which stars the makers of American Pie (brothers Chris and Paul Weitz) and the producer of Dawson's Creek (writer and lead player Mike White). Together they've created an offbeat antidote to mainstream Hollywood that's at once tragic, unsettling and hilarious.
At heart, Chuck&Buck is a romance, albeit a twisted one. The socially inept, lollipop-sucking Buck, who has the body of an adult but the mind of a 13-year-old, can't understand why his childhood buddy, now a sharp-suited executive with a glamorous fiancée (Beth Colt) and the trappings of yuppie success, won't reciprocate his advances. For his part, Chuck is strangely incapable of telling his unwanted admirer to take a jump.
This could end in tears, and as Buck's behaviour becomes more outlandish, one expects the mild-mannered Chuck to go psycho. But second-time director Miguel Arteta neatly steers the action into more reflective, redemptive territory.
He does this by introducing Beverly (Lupe Ontiveros), a Hispanic stage manager at a tiny LA theatre who agrees, against her better judgement, to direct Buck's play. Buck's plan is to put on his "homoerotic, misogynist love story" to show Chuck the depth of his feelings. To this end, he gives the lead role to a talentless lughead (Weitz's real-life sibling, Paul) purely because of his resemblance to Charlie.
Thanks to Ontiveros' maternal presence and White's remarkable performance, Chuck&Buck deftly avoids any charges of bad taste, emerging as a touching, offbeat fable with enough sly humour to excuse its climactic wallow in sentimentality. Filmed in a grainy Dogme style, it also boasts one of the most annoyingly catchy theme tunes you'll hear this year.
An unconventional romance in Todd Solondz mode, which flirts with Fatal Attraction-style melodrama and goofball farce before settling for bittersweet pathos. You may be surprised how much you end up caring for the characters.