Written and Directed by Nic Bettauer
Starring Philip Baker Hall, French Stuart, Amy Hill
Philip Baker Hall (Magnolia, The Sum of All Fears, Dogville) stars in this little seen indie film recently released on DVD by Westlake Entertainment.
Philip Baker Hall stars as Arthur, a recent widower. Arthur has just experienced another loss: his son. He returns to his wife’s grave to scatter the ashes of his deceased son when he makes a surprising discovery. A duckling wanders over to him. Feeling sorry for the cute little critter, he takes it home with him. He names him Joe and the two quickly bond.
One day, Arthur finds himself evicted from his apartment. Rather than to become a burden on a family member or shack up in a homeless shelter, he and Joe the duck hit the streets for an adventure.
Arthur finds a pond, a rare find in Los Angeles. He lets Joe go to enjoy a his life in a natural setting and he leaves to find himself and decide what an old man can do when no one seems to care.
When he finds out the city is going to drain the pond, Arthur returns to find Joe. He finds him being harassed by city workers and rescues him. Fate, once again, has brought this older man and this duck’s life paths together once again.
Joe and Arthur meet some unique people in Los Angeles. Their adventures take them deep into the poverty stricken areas of Los Angeles and find that not all people are bad. There are a few people in society not disconnected, heartless and selfish. But, that humanity has a few gems among the sliding soil of society.
What is to become of Arthur and his feathered friend?
Duck is certain to “ruffle a few feathers”. Okay, I know that was bad. But, how could I resist? How many movies come out where you can make a few duck jokes?
I digress. Duck is a sweet and compelling story about a man, seemingly invisible to society that finds a new friend of an unexpected sort at a surprising time in his life.
While the film is sentimental and poignant at times, it is not without its problems. The direction is fine and the cast and crew made the best of a small budget. However, the writing and dialogue at times is heavy handed. It is fine to want to make a point about modern day American life, politically, culturally and otherwise. Just use a bit of finesse. There were times when it felt like the characters had been given a “speech” to read instead of dialogue feeling immediate, fresh and natural.
While I enjoyed Duck, despite a few rough patches, it would still make for a nice viewing after a stressful day in cubicle hell. Go ahead and put it on your Netflix queue, it doesn’t have to take a permanent spot in your DVD collection.
Duck is presented in widescreen. The overall transfer is good. I didn’t notice any major artifacts and the colors are vivid and crisp. There is a good bit of grain though and detail levels are a little inconsistant.
Duck is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. While the film won’t give your back speakers any workout, the dialogue is clear. This is a fairly subtle film but wiht a little work some surround sound ambient noise could ahve really enhanced the viewing experience.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
Duck comes in a standard aramay case with a simple design.
There are some nice bonus features to accompany this little film. A commentary with the director Nic Bettauer and actor Philip Baker Hall. Interviews, Cast Bios, Desktop Downloads, a Photo Gallery and Movie Poster are also among the bonus features offered.
Rounding things out, the original theatrical trailer. All things considered, a nice assortment of bonus features to peruse after the end credits roll.
Overall (Not an Average) 7/10
The Movie 6/10
The Video 6/10
The Audio 5/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 6.5/10
Overall (Not an Average) 7/10