Director Jim Field Smith talks about his upcoming comedy 'Butter'


Butter, a quirky comedy starring Jennifer Garner, Ty Burrell, Olivia Wilde, and Hugh Jackman that premieres next week at the Toronto International Film Festival, was always destined to garner attention — it’s a high-profile movie about competitive butter carving!

But now that audiences are finally getting to see Butter, it seems likely to spark a lot more conversation. According to director Jim Field Smith (She’s Out of My League), Butter is an offbeat tale that follows a determined Jennifer Garner’s budding career as a competitive butter carver, and it also contains a few lighthearted winks to the 2008 presidential race and the recent hijinks that took place during the Iowa straw poll. Here’s what the director had to say about the plot:

“There are two stories really,” explained Smith to EW over the phone in August. “There’s the story that is the outward plot of the movie, which is of a very ambitious Midwestern housewife [Laura Pickler, played by Jennifer Garner] whose husband [Bob Pickler, Ty Burrell] has been the butter carving champion for 15 years.” Basically, when Mr. Pickler is asked to stop competing by a committee at the Iowa State Fair, so as to give some new blood a chance at winning, Laura is offended. Smith says, “She genuinely believes that her husband is a rock star and she is the glamorous wife. So, when he’s asked to retire, she perceives that as, ‘Well, they’re pushing us out of the way, and they can’t do this to us,’ so she decides that she’s going to enter the competition herself.”

With no prior experience in butter carving at all, Mrs. Pickler decides that she’s going to take the sculpting tools into her own hands. “She enters the competition, and when she goes to sign up, she finds herself signing up at the same time as this 10 year-old black orphan girl [Destiny, played by Yara Shahidi], who is prodigiously talented,” the director explains. Destiny and Laura quickly become intense butter-carving rivals.

“When you start to peel away the layers of the movie, you realize that there’s a lot of political metaphor to the movie,” continues Smith. “Bill Clinton was this much-loved president, who maybe was not so discreet with his sexual love, and Hillary stood in the shadows very quietly supporting him. After his two terms were up, there was a sense of Hillary saying, ‘My turn now.’

“And then, the year she runs for president, Barack Obama, this young upstart, comes along, and there’s a sense of Hillary being like, ‘Really?’ That was very much the metaphor that Jason Micallef was aiming for when he wrote the script originally. Obviously, there’s some fairly unsubtle links to the fact that the movie is set in Iowa.” (For those of you who avoid politics, the Iowa State Fair, where Butter actually filmed for one week during 2010, has become a major political stomping ground for presidential hopefuls seeking support in the Iowa caucuses.)

Smith was quick to express that the film is not any sort of angry, pointed satire, and that even without any focus on the political subtext (which is not the story at the core of the film), Butter functions as a goofy comedy. Color us intrigued!

Read more:
Jennifer Garner in ‘Butter’ and More First Look Pics!
Toronto International Film Festival announces 2011 line-up
Ben Affleck, Jennifer Garner expecting baby No. 3

Comments (22 total) Add your comment
  • Ann

    Does the story pan to three years later and show the butter melting and the 10 year old (well now 13year old) being shoved around by bullies while Mrs. Pickler seems to have acheived great success in another career…say ‘Travel Agent of the Year’? You know…keeping with the metaphor theme here…

    • stickittotheman

      Yes Ann, right after the scene where the now-13-year-old kills Osama Bin Laden!

      • The 10th Doctor

        He never killed Osama. He was simply in office when it happened. All he’s done is get a Noble prize for making promises and creating a healthcare plan that has been deem unconstitutional.
        The military killed Osama. Obama was just lucky enough to be in charge when it occurred.

      • Ann

        @stickittotheman I will accept that only in metaphor form. Be creative!

      • Tiffany

        Saying he was “simply in office when it happened” is foolish. Bush cancelled the program that was hunting Bin Laden in 2006. Obama approved not only the mission, but which option was used to take him out (vs. bombing with drones, etc.) You might not like Obama, but lets not get carried away.

      • chillydogs

        Hey fake doctor, if the president was just “in charge” when it happened, then why didn’t Bush get him? That’s right, because Bush said OBL didn’t matter anymore and shut down the unit hunting him. Our president reopened the search, ordered the mission and approved the strategy that ultimately killed the terrorist.

      • Winnie50

        Yeah, Obama may have authorized the initiative that took out Osama Bin Laden, but he did that at the same time he was proposing adding billions to the National Debt. Hmm, millions of dollars versus 1 dead terrorist. It’s a toss up…..

      • J Galt

        @stickittotheman HAHAHA! That’s right, because we all know Obama went over to Pakistan and put a cap in Osama gansta style right?

  • jets

    Hilary never sat quietly in the background quietly supporting her husband. That metaphore doesn’t work. Also, at this point, everyone’s sick of politics, so maybe if you’re promoting that film try not to sell that metaphore.

    • deedeedragons

      None of this has anything to do with the highly important topic of butter carving.

  • girl

    jets, i’ve read the script to this and jennifer garner’s character does not sit in the background at all. it’s hard for any blog to discuss this without having seen the movie or spoiling the plot but trust me, it works right in line.

  • ObvUsername

    You know if you have to work so hard to explain that your movie is political satire…maybe it isn’t. (I’m pretty sure the main plot lines of Superbad are based on the 1980 presidential campaign.)

    • brutony

      Yes, McLovin was Reagan, who got the girl AND the position of Pres, so there!

  • x

    um…i think we are reaching a bit on this, aren’t we?

  • No way man

    While all the other governors had to quit their jobs but
    Clinton got to keep his job .and his mistress got to be famous even today …why not have Hilary run against
    Obama Bill cheated on her lied to the court. And got the Whie House job . And this movie about a butter carving has to do with Obama and Hilary?

  • Good!

    …and Alicia Silverstone. She wasn’t mentioned, but she’s in this…playing the young prodigy’s adoptive mother, if I’m not mistaken. Political satire or not, all you had to say was “satire” and I’m in…if it’s done well, that is. Great, great comedic cast. Willing to bet their timing is spot on. Can’t wait to see it.

  • Michelle

    Let’s be honest, a white man with the exact same resume as Obama would NEVER have gotten the nom over Hillary.

    • punch drunk fool

      what are you tryin to imply…?

  • Rufus L. DeTrelle

    My daughter, Boo, used to spell butter “budder”. She live in Rockford now with two kids of her own.

  • Red

    “She’s out of my league” is one of the worst films in recent history. I don’t hold out much faith for Butter doing boffo box office.

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