It’s really surprising that David Duchovny waited this long to direct another feature. That he’s chosen to adapt his own novel is a fitting choice, since there’s so much personality on display here. Writing and directing his adaptation of Bucky F*cking Dent is such an obvious choice it’s sort of surprising it took so long to bring this to the big screen. The book came out in 2016, after all. Luckily, it’s here now in 2023 and it’s among the best Tribeca Film Festival titles so far.
Bucky F*cking Dent mixes comedy and drama in a surprisingly deft way, considering how silly the humor often is. There’s a bit of Californication in this, so if you enjoyed Duchovny’s work and vibe there, you’re in a good spot here. Even if you didn’t, this is still a really effective movie, which actually sneaks up on you with emotion by the end.
Ted (Logan Marshall-Green) is a wannabe writer and peanut vendor at Yankee Stadium. His father Marty (Duchovny) is a die-hard Red Sox fan, one he will finally get a chance to become close to when he develops a fatal illness. Moving in with Marty, Ted is initially standoffish, though the two quirky fellas begin to slowly mend fences. One issue? Whenever the Sox lose, Marty takes a turn for the worse. So, in the hopes of staving off cancer claiming his father, Ted comes up with a wild idea.
Scheming to keep his dad alive and perhaps even happy, Ted enlists the help of Marty’s grief counselor Mariana (Stephanie Beatriz) and barbershop friends to fake a winning streak for the team. Of course, the year is 1978 and any baseball fan knows that light-hitting Yankee infielder Bucky Dent is lurking just around the corner.
David Duchovny and Logan Marshall-Green are both very funny here. So is Stephanie Beatriz, though elements of her story are played as much for drama as comedy. Duchovny is having a blast playing up the sillier aspects of Marty. A sequence with the two in a locker room is among the funniest moments of the year so far. Duchovny is in his comfort zone here, but it’s still a riot of a performance. Marshall-Green has had to overcome being jokingly labeled as the “other Tom Hardy” and this is definitely his best work to date. He and Beatriz have terrific chemistry, though all three actually play extremely well off of each other. Supporting players here include Pamela Adlon, Jason Beghe, Evan Handler, Daphne Rubin-Vega, and more.
Adapting his own novel and directing, Duchovny is having the time of his life behind the camera (as well as clearly in front of it). His script, based on his book, is a hoot, while his direction is very solid. If there’s a flaw, it’s that the flick does run nearly two hours and could have easily been trimmed. Still, so much here works, it’s hard to be upset with Duchovny giving you more. He’s willing to get very earnest, but also very silly, and the mixture pleased me to now end. This is how you do an independent dramedy and not make it feel like it wants to be one genre or the other.
Bucky F*cking Dent made me laugh a lot, but it also moved me, especially in the third act. Does a lot of this movie follow the beats you’d expect? Sure, but David Duchovny is utilizing what works. As far as Tribeca goes, this is one of the most purely enjoyable films so far. When this moves on from the festival circuit, be sure to seek this one out!