Spinning Into Butter (2007) Poster

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Not bad at all
Danielle23 December 2009
My expectations were very low, so that may be why I enjoyed this movie quite a bit. I like SJP much more in this type of role than the endless incarnations of Carrie Bradshaw that she has played. She has great comic timing, but she has more to offer, and that's on display here (check her out in Smart People for more of what I'm talking about).

Anyway, racism is a tough issue and hasn't been dealt with on film in any credible way for many years (I just saw a promo for a new Hughes Brother movie and it looks like a standard action picture with nothing much to say about anything). Spike Lee is making heist movies and John Singleton is completely MIA. So I'll take what I can get.

No, it's not a perfect movie, but it kept my interest and it tried to show a bunch of different viewpoints. That's worth watching right there. I found most of the characters sympathetic, even the awkward, messed up ones - everyone has their reasons for behaving like they do. Yes, the characters are "types" to some extent, but how can you address this issue without showing standard actions that we all have seen? I lived in Philadelphia for many years and worked at Temple University (not unlike the fictional Lancaster College in the film) and now live in very white Clay NY. I could totally relate to the Dean's dilemma - seeing people who fit the stereotype, but then feeling weak for avoiding the problem. I thought it was pretty real.

And I just loved the closing shot - great way to end.

Unless you are determined to hate it, check this movie out - it's not a waste of time and it just might make you think.
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Race relations
jotix1001 September 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Political correctness and racial tolerance figure prominently in this film directed by Mark Brokaw. It is based on Rebecca Gilman's play that originated at the Goodman Theater in Chicago. When it was presented in New York in 2000, the cast was headed by Hope Davis, an excellent actress. The transfer to the screen, adapted by Ms. Gilman and Doug Atchison, had a troubled production, finally made it to a commercial release in 2007, and in spite of the casting of Sarah Jessica Parker in the leading role, it didn't reach a wide audience.

The basic change from the play is that the person behind all the hatred is never seen, whereas in the screen version we get to see the perpetrator. Racism in America is something that was never eradicated from society; it keeps resurfacing in the most unexpected areas. It is at the center of this study on what is real and one's perception of this deeply rooted problem in our society.

The thorny issue of race relations is prominently seen in the film. As the story begins, several racist drawings appear outside Simon Brick's room in the dorm of Belmont College, where he lives. The dean of students, Sarah Daniels, decides the police must be informed about the incident, something Catherine Kenney, who is Sarah's superior thinks should have been kept in house and dealt by the college's own security.

Sarah, who started her professional career at Lawrence College, in Chicago, where the majority was black, had a tough time during her stay there. Now, some of the issues she thought she left behind come to haunt her. At the old job she was frightened by the students who were undisciplined and rude to her, seeing in Sarah a sort of enemy; they never took kindly to her.

Now in a more laid back and peaceful setting, Sarah finds herself in the middle of the controversy about what is perceived by the minority students as an affront, in the way the school has handled the case. Even a promising young student, Patrick Chibas, with an excellent record and a good chance for getting a scholarship insist in listing his race as 'nuyorican', or someone having been born in New York of Puerto Rican descent. He resents the fact that Sarah had told him to enter the more generic term "hispanic" because it is, as far as she is concerned, a much better way to describe himself in the application.

Sarah, meets a black CNN reporter, Aaron Carmichael, that is assigned to cover the incident; he develops a fond relationship with her, but evidently he feels a stronger attraction that Sarah refuses to acknowledge. When the case explodes out of proportions, there is a terrible revelation as to who is the culprit for the racist messages is. As it turns out it is someone one would not ever had imagined could be doing such a thing. After the scandal, and because of Aaron's discovery about what really has been bothering Sarah, she resigns to go back to her old college and face her own fears.

Sarah Jessica Parker makes an intense Sarah and is about the best thing in the film. Miranda Richardson and Beau Bridges don't have much to do. Mikelty Williamson makes a good contribution as Aaron. Paul James is the young man targeted because of his race. Victor Rasuk is Patrick Chibas.

The film, far from being perfect, offers a case study about how apart race plays a major role in society.
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condescending film on racism is awful on its own terms
dbborroughs28 June 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Rebecca Gilman's wrongheaded play about racism at a small college is an even more wrongheaded film. What was a well intentioned but misguided play that equated not sitting next to a person of a different race on an empty subway car as racism is turned an even more off the mark film. The plot has to do with the aftermath of a racial incident and how the rich white head of the college who is suppose to be so liberal maybe isn't, and how political correctness maybe more prejudicial to everyone. I didn't care for the play all that much, which while not bad, managed to over state its position and there by lose its argument. This film version open the play up and manages to do everything wrong from the get go from the opening credits over a cartoon version of Little Black Sambo. From there the film makes it clear that this film is about "something" and then goes on to hammer home its points like a barbarian with an ax handle in a brawl. How can you even hope to relate to the lead character when she is clearly condescending to everyone? After a troubled production the film sat on the shelf for a few years and its easy to see why, the movie isn't much good and its becomes an endurance test to get through. I'm sure that everyone who made the film has their hearts in the right place, but at the same time, they are like their main character, clueless about how abrasive they are in showing us how wrong the world is. If you haven't guessed it I really hate this film and think you should stay as far way as possible.
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Will reinforce all your beliefs on race
stephenhow17 June 2009
From the opening credits, this movie made me cringe at almost every scene. The movie centers around a racial incident on the campus of a fictional small rural Vermont college. Of course the college stands in as a symbol of a majority White community, and the racial incident unavoidably escalates into a small media frenzy. Thus the stage is set for all the players to act and reveal their views on the issue of race. Of course the viewer immediately sees through the "characters", and starts interpreting the views of the writers and producers themselves. That's the whole issue about race: people are very aware of the differences between their views and other people's views about it. So, as the story unfolds and more and more stereotypes about race and stereotypical reactions to race are paraded out, I asked myself, who does this movie serve? Who does this movie not offend? It was obvious the script tries to represent both sides of the fence, in an "equal-time" manner. Amazingly enough, they even voiced the politically incorrect side, in a qualified way. Everyone in the movie is a caricature of their race. Largely, though not entirely predictable as you watch it, it still fits the stereotype of how race is allowed to be discussed in film. But ultimately, outside any moral of "racism is inevitable", or "racism is bad", the film makes no point itself. Sure, it might succeed on the level about getting "people to talk about race", but as the movie shows, why is that such a great idea?
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silly storyline, waste of time
cablo20 December 2008
Nah, didn't like this one at all. Political correctness on campus is the subject. There was some decent moments but there were many more ridiculous ones.The guy that is gonna be given a 10,000 dollar scholarship comes to mind. The scholarship is especially for minorities, and hes practically already been given it but he's got to write in his ethnicity on the form - he says 'new yorican' or something like that. Teacher says write hispanic or Porto rican. He doesn't want to. She talks him into it - I mean, come on man, you're gonna get 10 grand - Anyway, he agrees on Porto rican...But then he comes back again and again with the same problem - wants his ethnicity to be written as new yorican. The scene seemed ridiculous the first time... but to have the same scene come up 2 more times made me want to cry.

I didn't feel anything for any of the characters - Bad script, bad acting - All a bunch of cardboard cut outs. On the whole, a poor film, poor plot.Only watch if there's eff all else on the box.
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Amateur Hour
David Ferguson19 April 2009
Greetings again from the darkness. Rainy days are always a good time to take a flyer on a movie for which not much is known. I should have just stood in the rain for 90 minutes. An award winning play from Rebecca Gilman, this one is turned into an amateur production by first time director Mark Brokaw. Even the abrasive Sarah Jessica Parker deserves better.

A decent cast with SJP, Miranda Richardson, Beau Bridges and Mykelti Williamson (Bubba from Forrest Gump) can't come close to saving this one. This is a failed attempt at having us analyze our own prejudices and views on racism and political correctness. I can tell you where my prejudices lay ... on lousy, exploitive film-making.

There are hundreds of films that bring more depth and reality to the topic so don't waste a nickel on this one at the theatre or even NetFlix.
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This type of film is why racism is a problem in the first place.
Fox Hamilton14 June 2009
Wow, where do I even begin with everything that's wrong with this piece of garbage? Possibly one of the worst screenplays/plays ever written, this racially charged drama tries hard to make you think and feel for the characters when all you can think about is "why is race such a big issue here?" The entire film didn't make any sense. Unrealistic situations and unrealistic characters didn't help much either. Every white person is racist, according to this film. Every black person is racist as well, according to this. Same goes for everyone else. Including the so-called "New Yoricans" as one dumb ass student likes to call himself.

I don't get angry at films for any reason. Stupid teen comedies are that - just stupid. I hate them as well. Gruesome, bloody horror films are generally terrible, but then again, it's hard to get mad about something that's so fake. This film is the best example of a film that can truly get my blood pumping with rage because it gets everything so wrong.

According to this, every white person looks down on every other race - especially blacks. As a white man (who's closest friends were of all different races - white, black, Puerto Rican, including the love of my life who's black), this deeply offends me. It's the same as saying every German wants to maim or kill a Jew and every Muslim wants to strap a bomb to themselves and blow up a building or plain. Those stereotypes just aren't true; so neither are these crap accusations that this film is making. The screenwriter should be shot for this angering time waster.

Watch it only to see my point. Especially about the completely avoidable racial tensions. Other than that, I would strongly suggest you skip it entirely.

Usually I would never tell someone not to watch a film that I really don't like because for all I know I could be turning them off of the greatest film they've ever seen. It doesn't matter what it is. This movie is the rarest of exceptions.
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A Putrid Cliché and Nothing More!
amwcsu28 October 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I hated everything that Sarah Jessica Parker had done after 1997 (Sex in the City) included. But this isn't a rant on Sarah's performance in the movie I'm going to talk about. No. Even though her characters are often the most self-centered and patronizing on celluloid.

This is a review on the cinematic masterwork that is "Spinning Into Butter". First off; I f*^king hate this title, it's completely ridiculous...original but ridiculous! Secondly, it's another movie about racism where Blacks and Whites are at each other's throats and blah, blah, blah! What makes this movie irritating is the fact that everything is a cliché running like clockwork, just like all those airline disaster movies. Everyone is a "stereotype" We have a white dean and a white university council who are completely timid, clueless, and rich elitists, then there's the angry-ass black female student that's always shouting as if her everyone around her was deaf, and the one Latino kid that couldn't take a joke. As usual, there's rioting complete with fisticuffs at some "townhall" meeting, caused by the one racist white guy in the entire movie insulting one of the black students...*gasp* No! Shocking!(sarcasm, people) There's not much plot, here except the same ol' crap one would expect a cheaply constructed movie that has the quality of an early 90s afterschool special on Lifetime. Hell, they even dress like they're from the early 1990's!

Hold on! I haven't even got to the real reason I wince at this after saying: "What the f*^k?" and "You gotta' be kidding me!!!" The real reason is that this movie is completely backward...back-ass-ward! Why? The year in which this drama was made is 2007....six years,over half-a- decade after 9/11 and it talks about Black/White prejudice and racism. C'mon! Black/White racism? This is 21st century, post 9/11 America! What about Arab/White racism? What about Hispanic/White racism, Asian/White racism? Racism isn't just projected to Black people.

This movie acts like its 1987! Where has the director of this tripe been for the past 20 or so years? Under a rock? If this had been an Arab victim or even a Gay victim, this movie would be more authentic and with the times. Not to be shallow, but Blacks aren't the top of the list of potential hatemonger targets anymore. Don't get me wrong, Black people are still targets of hate. For example the 2008 Presidential campaign and the Tea Party controversies that continue today. But the producers, directors, and visionaries of this crap should realize that there other ways of discussing racism issues using the cinematic medium instead of using the same old plot, just like they should realize there are other victims of racism, too.
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Very uneven story about racial fear and college campus bigotry in New England.
TxMike10 July 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I was intrigued with the title, "Spinning Into Butter." As a kid growing up some relatives still made their own butter from fresh milk, and I thought maybe there was a connection. But there isn't.

The title is a reference to the old "Black Sambo" story where he had an encounter with several tigers and when they finally chased each other round and round a tree so fast, they spun themselves into butter.

The story of the movie is a take-off of that theme, where the Tigers are represented by white students and administrators at a small Vermont college. There are a number of students of color, and on the surface everything seems fine, but a racial incident results in lots of hidden feelings being brought to the surface.

While the story addresses a worthwhile topic, too often it is treated in a sophomoric manner. Many of the things said and actions taken by the faculty and administration, in response to the incident, seem more like caricatures of what might be said or done. Still, it was an entertaining 90 minutes.

Sarah Jessica Parker is in the nominal lead role as Sarah Daniels, who is a student relations dean recruited from a predominantly black Chicago college, in the hopes that she could help bridge the racial divide.

SPOILERS: The incident is a racially charged note pinned to the door of a black student. Eventually another shows up, then a hangman's noose outside his dorm window. This gets the faculty, staff, student body, and local law enforcement into a tizzy. Also a local news reporter. Two things come out of all this, Sarah finally meets her fears head-on, she had left the Chicago college because of the fear she had developed towards minorities, at school, on the El. And second, the black student was the one pinning notes on his own door. Why? Because he was brought up to expect whites to denigrate him and he was trying to make that happen. He was looking to have everyone spin themselves into butter. He was expelled, Sarah went back to Chicago.
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Plastic facade...
MarieGabrielle22 June 2011
You know, there could have been a decent story here, but so many "isms" and trite dialog (like a very bad David Mamet play "Oleanna" about sex discrimination....very trite and pointless. Forced dialog that NEVER occurs in real life does not a film make.

Beau Bridges as Dean of a Vermont college, reciting the story of "Little Black Sambo"?.....it doesn't ring true and SJP while sometimes good, overdoes the fake agenda here...:"I used to be a decent person, then avoided black men on the subway".... Have we regressed yet again to 1970?.

The final hour of this film is simply awful for anyone with an I.Q. who has lived or worked in a city, any city in a real world. Frankly, I am tired of SJP and that "Carrie Bradshaw" is representative of NY women who are caring, open, emotional, but get hurt when they wear their heart on their sleeve. Trite and awful. The audience deserves better.
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though-provoking theme clumsily executed
Roland E. Zwick12 April 2010
In "Spinning Into Butter," a small ivy-covered college in Vermont, known for its liberal views and tolerant policies, is rocked by a racial incident aimed at a recently enrolled black student. Soon the incident has exposed a vein of racism running through the faculty and student body that has long lain hidden beneath a veneer of white liberal guilt and political correctness.

Sarah Jessica Parker plays Sarah Daniels, the newly arrived Dean of Students who has to take the lead in quelling the crisis, but who may have issues of her own regarding race to deal with. Veteran actor Beau Bridges also appears as a fellow dean.

Based on the play by Rebecca Gilman (who co-wrote the screenplay with Doug Atchinson), "Spinning Into Butter," directed by Mark Brokaw, starts off with the best of intentions, pinpointing some of the complexities inherent in an issue we too often sweep under the rug in an effort to avoid dealing with it. And the movie does an effective job highlighting the irony that sometimes it is the very well-intentioned efforts we make to try to alleviate the negative effects of racism - quotas, forced integration, segregation in the name of "cultural pride" etc. - that wind up actually exacerbating the problem in the end. The film also makes the rather provocative case that even in a mostly white, socially liberal enclave like Vermont, racism still exists, though since it is rooted more in the subconscious, it is more likely to manifest itself in covert rather than overt ways there. It's a daring and risky theme and one the filmmakers should be congratulated for at least having the courage to bring out in the open.

However, noble intentions notwithstanding, the heavy-handed approach the movie takes towards the topic ultimately robs it of much of its effectiveness. Too often the characters sound less like real people than like spokespersons for individual causes. Moreover, the staging of events is frequently awkward, the drama needlessly contrived. And the resolution of the conflict, quite frankly, borders on the preposterous. Additionally, the performances, with the exception of Parker's, lack any mitigating trace of polish and finesse.

There's no denying that there are moments of quality scattered throughout the film, and that the autumnal New England scenery is absolutely lovely (though a very small part of the exteriors were filmed - seamlessly, I might add - at the high school in Los Angeles where I work). Yet, sad to say, "Spinning Into Butter" emerges as probably the clunkiest and most self-satisfied examination of race relations in America since the urban drama "Crash."
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U R What U Eat
cruz-anndrea23 March 2009
I absolutely LOVE this movie's suspense and intensity! Kudos to Sarah Jessica Parker and the entire staff for adding a flip side to the affects of racial internalization. Our society struggles to understand how our personal afflictions affect our actions and I believe this movie will help. People still fail to realize you are what you eat in this day and age. In this movie people are eating stereotypes. Some of them even get too full for dessert. This movie's perspective on racism seems to be all too common, but in fact is not. It's thought-provoking to see the man in the mirror come out in this film. Time for some self-reflection. Thanks for a profound insight!
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How To Resolve Racism?
rAjOo27 April 2009
Sarah Daniels teaches in a Lancaster School, which is predominantly occupied by minorities, especially blacks. She soon develops a deep hatred and prejudice, even fear, against blacks, and avoids them even in public transportation. When she finds out about a vacancy in Belmont College in Vermont, she re-locates there. But her past will be put to the test when she is ironically labeled a liaison person for the minorities, as well as asked to prepare a 10 point list to resolve racism, after an African American student, Simon Black, becomes a victim of hate crime.

She will also realize that before she was hired, the Management expected her to be black.

Subsequently, she herself will question her prejudice as well as the Management's 'lip service' response to the hate crime amidst heavy media presence, and growing restlessness and hatred amongst the student body.

Quite frankly, one can only laugh out loud at the naivety shown by the school management in asking a lecturer to prepare a document titled 'how to resolve racism'.

For generations, judiciary, and human rights commissions have turned a nelson's eye on this issue, and that's precisely the reason why it continues on undeterred.

One must often wonder as to why most people on one hand are contemptuous of lawyers, but respectful of judges - who at one time were themselves lawyers. Many lawyers are appointed to the judiciary by politicians - thus issues never get addressed and get even more complex in the long run. This is why people take to the streets and there is violence when concerns and issues are left unaddressed.

A thought provoking movie, and a must-watch for all.
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It's disappointing overall!
Syl27 May 2013
Sarah Jessica Parker steps away from her Carrie Bradshaw character and plays a Dean of Students at a small liberal arts college in Vermont. The film has an all star cast including Beau Bridges and Miranda Richardson as the other deans. James Rebhorn is always welcome on screen as the President of the College. Mykelti Williamson plays a local reporter. The story about a racism incident at the college creates a stir among the faculty and students. Parker's Dean character faces her own issues about race and her history in Chicago at a largely African American college, Lancaster College. In this film, Parker does a decent job but the script is weak and poorly adapted from the stage. Parker has her best moments when she confronts her racist views and feelings. While the cast is all star, the script weakens the film. To me, not much happens at all.
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There's a good movie in there somewhere....
mrncat14 May 2012
This movie's concept is thought-provoking, however the execution of the point it is trying to make gets lost somehow. In some way I think it is the actors chosen for this film -- maybe it would've worked better if they were mostly unknowns. Because what the viewer needs here is the ability to understand that the characters depicted in the story are not stereotypes. And yet they are portrayed as such to a great extent and it just didn't add up to the kind of depth that ought to be there to sufficiently address racism. Anyway the movie felt stunted, and for some reason I found it hard to believe that the actors themselves, for the most part, believed what the characters they portrayed were saying. Yes, there was the attempt to portray how hypocritical the college professors and professionals were and how sensitive the minority students were to prejudicial slights. I just got the impression that something more intrinsic to the entire situation was missing.

Interestingly Sarah Jessica Parker did eventually come across as believable. Everyone else i thought was on another planet and it all felt disjointed.

This film is not bad per se -- the story itself is intriguing in that it does try to depict racism. I found it hard to believe on some level that a college would react so oddly.
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