Duck (Nic Bettauer, 2005) is a simple little film starring Philip Baker Hall, one of my favorite actors. As someone whose face seems worn and weary by time, Hall is a perfect fit as a lonely widower who has one of the saddest back-stories you’ll hear. The premise is rather basic: Hall as Arthur Pratt is lonely to the point of suicide until he comes upon a new friend, a duckling who he names Joe.
Arthur speaks to Joe like a crazy lady speaks to the child she kidnapped. He talks almost non-stop to Joe with overly descriptive language of what he is doing – pretty redundant and a bit inane. It probably would have been better served without any, which would have given it a more striking effect. Joe is a unrelenting quacker, too, meaning that our two main characters both talk a lot, even though one really doesn’t understand the other. Gradually we learn how the world the two live in is being torn apart. Arthur is broke and getting evicted from his apartment; the ponds that Joe would call home are being drained to make way for malls by construction workers so evil they probably burn down FernGully in their spare time. In this dystopian future of 2009 in which Duck takes place, we learn that Jeb Bush has become president, trash is now strewn everywhere, and the average dickishness quotient among the general population has become exceedingly high.
Joe grows up rapidly, giving us some nebulous sense of time passing. Over this time, the duo head west from Los Angeles to the ocean encountering various people who they help or get helped by. This includes a suicidal French Stewart (!), who is probably the easiest to help suicidal person ever. The encounters are vignette-like, fleeting as quickly as they arrive. My favorite was their visit at a nail parlor with an Asian pedicurist who gives Joe a bath. She’s played by actress Amy Hill, who you’ll almost certainly recognize from something. The scene is expressed with simple character-building dialog that’s the film’s strong point. Of course, it’s entirely possible that this was just longest Aflac commercial ever.
Arbitrary song of the day: The Offspring – Pay the Man