Spinning Into Butter

Set at a small liberal arts college in Vermont, Spinning into Butter is a vastly disappointing film, a blatant social problem picture about a potentially interesting subject, a series of racist incidents on a campus that lead to various discoveries of the community at large.
 
Produced by Sarah Jessica Parker, Lou Pitt, and Norman Twain, this dusty movie, which was made at least three or four years ago, was adapted by Rebecca Gilman from her 1999 stage play (which I have not seen).  The stiff and verbose screenplay is co-written by Doug Atchison (who did a better job as writer-director of “Akeelah and the Bee”), and it's helmed by theater director Mark Brokaw (“How I Learned to Drive,” “This Is Our Youth”) making his feature debut, and proving that he doesn't know much about the properties of film as a distinct medium.
 
Why would Parker produce and star in a movie, in which she is vastly miscast?  Perhaps to shake off her all too solid image from TV's hit sitcom, “Sex and the City”?

A hate crime on the campus of Belmont College (a fictitious college) puts the school’s Dean of Students Sarah Daniels (Parker) in a position where she has to act as the college’s spokesperson on tolerance, as most of the surrounding faculty apparently has their own cans of worms of prejudices and biases.  Predictably, the crisis forces Daniels to examine her own feelings about race and prejudice, while maintaining her administration’s politically correct policies.
 
Alongside Parker, who is too mannered, two other gifted actors, Beau Bridges and Miranda Richardson (both Oscar nominees) are wasted in thankless parts.


As much as I disliked David Mamet's similarly-themed and similarly troubled play and movie “Oleanna,” it's superior to this amateurish and starchy effort, whose arguments and most of characters don't ring true and by all rights should have gone straight to DVD.

End Note:


The title “Spinning into Butter” comes from Little Black Sambo, the classic children’s story.  In that tale, tigers steal Sambo’s clothes and then chase each other’s tail, trying to get the garments so each tiger can be the fairest. They spin so quickly that they liquefy into butter and Sambo scoops up the butter and eats it on his pancakes.  Rebecca Gilman chose the title to speak on “the faculty passing blame from one person to another until the root of the problem is just a blur.”