Susan Granger’s review of “Duck” (Right Brained Releasing)
If you love animals and off-beat films, you’ll find them both in this quirky, whimsical, low-budget, independent road movie.
Philip Baker Hall plays Arthur, a retired history professor, who has not only lost his wife and only son but also summarily been evicted from his Los Angeles apartment. With no job and no money, no family and no friends, he’s homeless and hopeless. It’s 2009 and, under President Jeb Bush, all pensions, along with Medicare and Social Security benefits have been abolished.
Planning to kill himself, Arthur walks to a nearby park where he discovers an orphaned duckling – which he names Joe – and discovers a new lease on life. Joe becomes Arthur’s constant companion, like “Travels With Charley,” as this unlikely twosome gamely ventures forth on an odyssey to forge some kind of existence together – if and when they can reach the beach.
It’s not always easy – like when construction workers drain the park’s pond and throw stones at Joe and when a hostile bus driver refuses to allow Joe to ride on her bus. A psychiatric social worker consigns Arthur to a homeless support group where the appeal of the free donuts fails to make up for the hostile conversation. Nevertheless, Arthur befriends a blind man, Norman (Bill Cobb), with a seeing-eye dog, and an Asian immigrant pedicurist (Amy Hill) saves Joe’s webbed feet.
Writer/director Nic Bettauer concocts a truly original cinematic experience – and whether or not you’ll enjoy the various vignettes depends on your willingness to waddle along for the ride. Admittedly, some of their quacking encounters work better than others. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Duck” is a strangely endearing 7. And it’s certainly unique.