Butter (2011 film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed by Jim Field Smith
Produced by
Written by Jason Micallef
Music by Mateo Messina
Cinematography Jim Denault
Edited by
  • Matt Garner
  • Dan Schalk
Release dates
  • September 4, 2011 (2011-09-04) (Telluride)
  • October 5, 2012 (2012-10-05) (United States)
Running time
90 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $105,018[1]

Butter is a 2011 comedy film directed by Jim Field Smith, from a screenplay by Jason Micallef, starring Yara Shahidi, Jennifer Garner, Ty Burrell, Olivia Wilde, Rob Corddry, Ashley Greene, Alicia Silverstone, and Hugh Jackman. It was released on October 5, 2012 in the United States and Canada by The Weinstein Company. The film is said to be a satire of the 2008 Democratic presidential primary.[2]


Destiny (Shahidi) is a ten-year-old foster child in Iowa who gets placed with Ethan (Corddry) and Jill Emmet (Silverstone). While visiting the Iowa State Fair by herself, she wanders into the exhibit of the winning butter sculpture, a life-sized Last Supper, and skillfully finishes the Holy Grail cup, which impresses the sculpture's creator, Bob Pickler (Burrell).

Bob had won the fair's butter-sculpture contest for the past 15 years straight; because of his dominance, he is asked to abstain from future competitions to give others a chance. Bob's wife Laura (Garner), overly competitive and socially ambitious, goes to the home of the competition's organizer to protest. Bob goes to a strip club and solicits stripper Brooke (Wilde) for sex in his minivan. Laura discovers them and T-bones the van with her SUV.

Laura decides to enter the county's preliminary sculpture competition herself because of the social status that comes with winning. Destiny decides to enter as well, as does Brooke, who just wants to harass the Picklers because Bob owes her $600. Despite practice, Laura comes in second to Destiny.

When Brooke appears at the Picklers' seeking her money, Bob's daughter Kaitlin (Greene) admits her and takes her up to her room. After talking a bit, Kaitlin challenges Brooke to a game of truth-or-dare which escalates to them having sex. Kaitlin is drawn to Brooke's alternative style and attitude; Brooke just wants the money (she ups the amount to $1200) and Kaitlin says she can get it. While this is going on, Kaitlin's stepmom Laura is hooking up with Boyd Bolton (Jackman), an old high-school boyfriend who is now a used-car salesman. She's seducing him to get him to falsely testify to county officials that Ethan paid him to help Destiny in the competition. Laura suggests a rematch at the state fair. Destiny agrees; everyone else is disgruntled.

Brooke gets her money from infatuated Kaitlin, meets Destiny after school, and takes her to the mall to buy her a $1,200 set of chef's knives to help her in the rematch with Laura. When Destiny gets home, a social worker informs her that her biological mother has died.

At the state fair, Laura carves a replica of John F. Kennedy's car immediately after his assassination complete with the president's blown-up skull and Jackie Kennedy and Clint Hill crawling onto the trunk; Destiny creates her biological mother holding her infant self in a rocking chair. That night before the judging, Boyd sneaks into the butter-sculpture room and defaces Destiny's sculpture with a blowtorch. Destiny, disappointed and expecting to lose now, encounters Laura in the restroom and offers the forgiveness of her handshake. Laura tells Destiny that winning the butter-sculpting contest means more to her than the little girl can comprehend. Laura feels she has little opportunity to distinguish herself otherwise, while Destiny has talent and her entire life to realize her own potential. Despite the damage, Destiny's sculpture wins. The sabotage of the piece is recognized as "higher art", as the judges believe the melted face lends the butter sculpture a greater depth. Destiny goes on to win in the state competition, where judges give a positive critique on her piece, deeming it an "angst-ridden exploration of post-natal abandonment." Upon her victory, Destiny assures Laura that the butter-carving contest is "not all that you have". Laura kneels down to Destiny and hugs her, understanding that she must move on to greater triumphs that are her own.

Later, Destiny is officially adopted by the Emmets and Laura is running for Governor of Iowa, claiming that God appeared to her and advised her to run.



The screenplay is the debut of Jason Micallef. He submitted a draft of the script for a Nicholl Fellowship with the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2008 and won.[3] This was the first film produced by Jennifer Garner's production company, Vandalia Films.

The script came third on Leonard Franklin's 2008 Blacklist of Hollywood's most popular unproduced screenplays.[4]

Jennifer Garner commented in February 2010, saying, "We are just about to get green light, so I will be diving into butter and learning how to fake it. I am sure we will have to hire professionals to make the final products but I'm looking forward to picking up some new skills. Maybe they will come in handy during a family holiday." [5]

The film premiered at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival.[6]


Butter has received some mixed reviews. Though it holds a rating of 35% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 60 reviews,[7] the user reviews at Internet Movie Database are positive. It received a 40 out of 100 from 23 critic reviews on the International Movie Data Base.


  1. ^ "Butter (2010)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved December 31, 2014. 
  2. ^ Saito, Stephen. "'Butter' Churns a Political Fable Out of Race, Age and Iowa Butter Sculptors". Take Part. Retrieved 9 Mar 2013. 
  3. ^ 2008 Nicholl Fellows. [1].
  4. ^ Billington, Alex (December 10, 2008). "The 2008 Black List - Most Popular Unproduced Screenplays". FirstShowing.net. Retrieved August 28, 2012.
  5. ^ Sperling, Nicole (9 February 2010). "Jennifer Garner talks next film: 'Butter'". Inside Movies - EW.com. Retrieved 7 January 2013. 
  6. ^ Brevet, Brad (September 14, 2011). "Harvey Weinstein Turns Toronto 'Butter' Premiere into a Political Statement". Retrieved August 29, 2012. 
  7. ^ "Butter - Rotten Tomatoes". Retrieved 7 January 2013. 

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