After getting off to a shaky start, David Duchovny’s second directorial feature Bucky F*cking Dent delivers some hard truths and profound wisdom against the backdrop of a 1978 Red Sox-Yankees American League East pennant game. Adapted from Duchovny’s book of the same name, his follow-up to 2004’s House of D finds Teddy (Logan Marshall-Green), an aspiring novelist and Yankees peanut vendor, returning home to visit his estranged, dying father Marty (Duchovny). His work is rejected by a literacy agent who encourages him to commit a crime, go to prison, and write about it––otherwise he’s just another uninteresting voice in changing times. Fresh from a divorce, the shaggy-haired Teddy is going through an awkward phase, stuck in a profound rut. His dad comments that despite being 33 his son looks both younger and older than he is.

After initial bantering as old baggage resurfaces, Teddy agrees to stay with Marty with the help of Marianna (Stephanie Beatriz), who introduces the duo to yoga, a novel concept in 1978. She’s a “dying specialist” from the local hospital from where Marty was just discharged and focused on allowing him to die gracefully. Despite living in New Jersey, Marty is a die-hard Red Sox fan for the simple reason that he enjoys going against the status quo. When the Red Sox also find themselves in a rut, Teddy hatches a scheme to shield Marty from the bad news, involving the guys at the local barbershop, paperboy, and Mariana in a plan that includes faking thunderstorms, disconnecting TVs, and changing newspapers. The good news keeps Marty in better spirits until the plan is revealed, but at that point the team has started to bounce back and finds themselves in a champion position.

Overstaying its welcome at times, Bucky F*cking Dent explores two men with dreams deferred as Teddy finds Marty’s long-lost graphic novella The Double Mint Man, a kind of imaginary memoir that provides a compelling emotional core to a film that at times plays a bit trite. The early scenes of bickering and bantering feel stale as father and son reconnect and initially don’t like each other much. Beatriz’s Marianna also plays the part she’s intended and Teddy, of course, is initially too blind to see it. The last act really shines: Teddy goes the extra mile for Marty, essentially giving him the kind of experience a son should for their father when he’s on his way out. By this passage, the film and the central relationship find their stride, despite the clunkiness of the first act and predictability of certain aspects. 

Bucky F*cking Dent, like Ray Romano’s heartfelt Somewhere in Queens, represents a dying breed of film perhaps aimed at an older demographic that’s been slower to come back to cinemas post-pandemic. This is at times an unhinged work of nostalgia, and at its best feels like a story a father might tell his son about a grandfather who passed too soon. It’s a shame the film isn’t a sharper, more original version of itself, but like Bucky Dent, it unexpectedly comes through when it counts. 

Bucky F*cking Dent premiered at Tribeca Festival.

Grade: C+

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