Bucky F*cking Dent’ Review: David Duchovny’s Winning Father-Son Saga



Bucky F*cking Dent,” the second movie written and directed by David Duchovny (the first was “House of D,” in 2004), is based on a novel by Duchovny that was published in 2016, and whether or not the story is autobiographical, it feels autobiographical, and I mean that as a compliment. Set in the summer of 1978, it’s framed around one man’s obsession with the Boston Red Sox — meaning, of course, the curse of the Bambino, going back to 1918, the last time (until 2004) the Sox won the championship.

The man is Ted Fulilove, which is a terrible last name for a movie character, though he’s played by Duchovny as a cussed crab apple with an amusing misanthropic put-down for every occasion (like: “Closure’s for morons”). “Bucky F*cking Dent” has a handful of characters, but it’s essentially a father-son two-hander — one of those dramadies in which the dad is a heartless-on-the-surface coot who was no good when it came to how he treated his family, and the son is a lot nicer and more sensitive, but maybe too sensitive (as a correction to all that paternal dickishness). Which also means that he’s lost.

Back in 1986, Tom Hanks and Jackie Gleason had a field day with this sort of thing in “Nothing in Common,” a movie that was instrumental in establishing Hanks’ serious dramatic chops. Duchovny, as a filmmaker, delivers the variation on it that you’d want and expect from an actor — a movie that places its performances front and center but also feels quirky and life-size. Marty’s son, Teddy, is played by Logan Marshall-Green, sporting Wolverine sideburns and stringy long hair parted down the middle, as if he were the young Billy Crystal playing one of the hippie heroes of “Hair.” But any anti-establishment vibes have long ago been tamed. Teddy is a peanut vendor at baseball games, because he’s actually an aspiring writer, the kind who hands his agent a 700-page novel that he’s proud to say has no plot whatsoever.

Teddy is drifting along, in a very late-’70s way, when he’s hit with the news that Marty has terminal cancer. He shows up at his dad’s hospital bed, and the two seem so disconnected we assume they’re estranged. But the distance is more relatable than that. Ted, needy but mellow, lives in the shadow of Marty’s rejection. And why is Marty that way? We’ll learn in due time, but at the start he seems to be the kind of person who wears his selfish competitive taunting nature as a brand. He’ll say to Teddy, “She’s out of your league — you don’t have enough sap.” A son could die from that kind of encouragement.

Ted, though he’s the crestfallen product of not enough daddy love, figures he’ll go out to Jersey and spend a few days with the old man, helping the ailing Marty get settled back into his neglected suburban ranch house. Teddy’s mother died a while back, and Teddy himself, who’s 33, was married once. The two men may not know it, but they were made to nudge and harass each other out of their isolation.

Duchovny gives the material a crusty lived-in Jewish spin, à la the Noah Baumbach of “The Meyerowitz Stories,” which explains a lot about the damaged family dynamics on display. Marty was an advertising executive, but mostly he lived his life in secret, as Teddy discovers when he finds a confessional novel that Marty wrote back in the ’60s, all about his secret adoration of a woman he used to see at baseball games. Suddenly, what Teddy sees is his father’s life of quiet desperation.

“Bucky F*cking Dent” is sort of a hang-out movie, and that’s what’s good about it. The two men sit around the house. They go down to the barbershop, where there’s some lively banter delivered by actors like Evan Handler (from “Sex and the City”) and Santo Fazio, who’s got the verve of a local-yokel Al Pacino. Stephanie Beatriz, as the grief counselor Marty likes to flirt with, and who Teddy communes with more deeply, acts as a pinprick to the inflated balloon of neurotic male energy.      

As the summer of 1978 sprawls forward, and as the Red Sox rally, Marty gets revved by the possibility that this, at last, could be their year. But he’s so wrapped up in what the victory would mean that his health ebbs and flows with it, to the point that Teddy starts hiding the daily newspaper when the Sox go on a losing streak. (Teddy also literally fakes a thunderstorm or two, which is a bit much.)

“Bucky F*cking Dent” ambles along with a sweet-and-sour vitality that’s funny and pleasing. We know that the movie’s going to build toward a Moment of Truth. But when it arrives, Duchovny, breaking down, does the finest acting of his career, in a scene that explains the character’s distance as well as the humanity he’s been suppressing; it comes pouring out of him like an untapped geyser. Duchovny is still puckish and spry, but at 62 he’s just old enough to convince us that he’s been around the block of this kind of submerged despair. When the Yankee shortstop Bucky Dent, during the American League East Championship Game, hits his epochal home run, the movie has set things up just well enough to make that event feel like karma — the deliverance that Marty needs to send himself off. The Sox winning was always a dream. But Teddy and Marty can now stop pretending that one of them has to defeat the other in their lifetime playoff.


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