Teen comedies always have the requisite romantic subplot. And Butter is no exception. However, it doesn’t go the way you’d expect.
The titular protagonist, as he’s referred to by schoolmates, is a smart, likable character. He’s witty and has a talent for the saxophone. Unfortunately, high school kids can be very cruel, and he happens to weigh in at 424 pounds. Nicknamed “Butter” due to a bullying incident perpetuated by a group of angry teenagers a couple of years before the movie’s events, he suffers from low self-esteem. He’s virtually friendless and can’t talk to his crush, Anna.
Online is a different story. He catfishes her under the name “JB,” a soccer star at a nearby private school. “JB” is articulate, charming, confident, everything Butter is not (I’m following Nell Minow’s lead: since we don’t learn his real name until the end of the film, and he refers to himself as Butter, I’ll do the same).
After a disastrous attempt to talk to Anna, Butter decides he’s going to make his classmates notice him. He builds a website in which he announces he’s going to literally eat himself to death. And he’s going to live stream for his classmates.
Suddenly, Butter’s popularity grows. He’s invited to hang out with the “cool kids.” Classmates encourage him by giving him suggestions on what to eat, and they even advise him to password protect the site to keep parents and teachers from discovering. Of course, this is a completely different form of bullying, akin to watching the “freak show” at a circus.
One benefit of Butter’s newfound “notoriety” is that Anna notices him, and he gets to know her. (SPOILER ALERT) Do not read if you plan to watch.
Toward the end of the film, Butter reveals JB’s true identity, and in a twist the makers of You’ve Got Mail would find appalling, she slaps him and tells him where he can stick it. After he goes through the stunt and winds up in the hospital, they make peace, and they decide to be friends. All the adults are married or coupled; I would have liked at least one single adult character. I also don’t care for the fact that Butter refers to her as “just a friend” when his Mom comments that “she’s a pretty girl;” that being said, I doubt a girl would choose to be someone’s boyfriend after finding out she’s been catfished by said guy. Actually, I don’t think she’d want to be his friend either, but I was relieved that the filmmakers avoided the worn-out trope of the male protagonist “getting the girl” at the end. They decide to get to know each other as friends, which is nice.
Butter is far from being a perfect movie. While Butter is a well-defined character and the lead performer, Alex Kerstig, displays remarkable acting chops for his first role, the supporting characters don’t fare as well. Most (with the exception of Anna) are thinly drawn, and Butter’s initially distant father seems to change suddenly without an explanation.
Still, this film would definitely pass the test. It was worth the free viewing on YouTube, and there are worse ways to spend two hours on a Saturday night. I recommend.