Jennifer Garner says playing a ruthless artist who will do anything to win an Iowa butter-sculpting contest in the comedy “Butter” was a delightful change from the girl-next-door roles she frequently plays.
Directed by Jim Field Smith, the contemporary comedy is about Laura Pickler, a woman whose world is turned upside-down when her husband Bob is forced to retire from competing in the annual Iowa state butter-sculpting contest . The competition made the couple semi-celebrities because Bob always wins, but contest officials think he should give someone else a shot.
Instead of gracefully relinquishing what she believes is their hard-won social standing, however, Laura decides to enter the next competition — proving to be a capable artist, but finding her work eclipsed by that of Destiny, the adorable, talented foster child of a kindly couple.
Garner plays Laura, Ty Burrell plays Bob, newcomer Yara Shahidi plays Destiny, and Alicia Silverstone and Rob Corddry play Destiny’s adoptive parents, Julie and Ethan.
Adding to the tension is Olivia Wilde’s character Brooke, an exotic dancer and occasional prostitute who stalks and threatens Laura after Bob fails to pay her for services rendered.
Brooke enters the butter-sculpting competition just to irk Laura, and then throws her support behind Destiny when she sees the little girl has a much better chance of besting Laura, even though Laura will lie and cheat to take first prize.
“I play a lot of pretty, girl-next-doorish kinds of characters and I am a girl-next-door in real life and I am sick of myself. I am so over it. I don’t want to see another simpering smile. I’m done,” Garner joked with United Press International at a press conference in New York Thursday. “So, this, to me, was heaven on Earth — except that she is not to be emulated in any way and she is a heinous person. …
“But as far as relating to that competitiveness, I think it stretches it for me,” the actress said. “I will tell you there is a moment in the movie where Olivia Wilde says she’s going to cut me and every time she did it, I kid you not, I had a fight or flight response in my body, where I felt like, ‘Run!’ She may say, ‘Oh, it was really hard for me to do.’ But she went right for it.”
“Her reaction was totally real,” said Wilde, who was sitting with Garner at the press conference. “I think it was on our first day of shooting. It really set the tone.”
While she didn’t develop a passion for butter-sculpting, Garner told reporters she does have things she loves that might surprise some people.
“Clogging,” she said. “I’m from West Virginia. You play ‘Rocky Top,’ I could clog right now. The saxophone and anything to do with the Mountain State.”
“Butter” is on Video on Demand now. It opens in U.S. theaters Oct. 5.