For a movie with an expletive in its title, Bucky F*cking Dent sure displays a sentimental streak.

In David Duchovny’s film based on his well-received 2016 novel, a dying, and diehard, Red Sox fan is comforted by his son and friends who make up stories about imaginary victories — and even periodically use a garden hose and sound effects replicating a thunderstorm to make him think that certain games have been rained out. It’s like a modern-day version of the classic O. Henry story “The Last Leaf.”

Bucky F*cking Dent

The Bottom Line

Pretty f*cking good.

Fortunately, the film, receiving its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, also features enough caustic, irreverent humor to make its soppier aspects more palatable. Representing Duchovny’s first feature directorial effort since 2004’s House of D, it provides an excellent showcase for the actor’s particular brand of deadpan comedy as the sort of cranky, wisecracking guy who pretends to be taking his last breath, and, when his son leans in to hear his final words, utters “Rosebud” before erupting in cackling laughter.

After a prologue set in 1956 establishing the Red Sox fanaticism and chain-smoking ways of Marty (Duchovny), an advertising copywriter, the action moves forward to 1978, when his adult, estranged son Teddy (Logan Marshall-Green) is working as a peanut vendor at Yankee Stadium. Teddy is really a failed novelist; when his beleaguered agent (Pamela Adlon, in a funny cameo) tells him that his novels need something resembling a plot, he responds by telling her that he considers plots to be “a dead, 19th-century bourgeois convention.”

After Teddy receives a dire call from Mariana (an appealing Stephanie Beatriz, Brooklyn Nine-Nine), a grief counselor nurse who informs him that Marty is suffering from terminal cancer, Teddy reunites with his widowed father and even decides to move into his suburban home to help him through his final days. The resulting awkward reconciliation between the two men forms the heart of the film, with the addition of a subplot involving Teddy’s burgeoning romance with Mariana.

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Duchovny, who also produced and scripted, provides plenty of opportunities for amusing banter between Marty and Teddy, the latter of whom has never quite managed to grow up. Much of the dialogue is hilariously ribald, especially in a locker room scene in which the two nude men share a tender familial embrace after comparing penises. Teddy also comes to appreciate his father’s literary talents after discovering an unpublished novel that actually turns out to be a thinly disguised journal in which he reveals his long-ago love for another woman.

That leads to one of the film’s less successful plot elements, in which Teddy and Mariana find the lost love, Eva (Daphne Rubin-Vega), and arrange a tender reunion. What might have worked on the page here seems rushed and unconvincing, especially when Marty and Eva pretend to have vigorous sex behind closed doors while a horrified Teddy eavesdrops. Equally unamusing are the hijinks of Marty’s barber shop buddies (Evan Handler, Jason Beghe, Santo Fazio), who not so convincingly conspire with Teddy to make his father think that the Red Sox are doing better than they are.

It all leads to, what else, a road trip, as father and son head to Boston for a playoff game between the Yankees and Sox featuring the home run that inspires the provocative film’s title. Here again, Duchovny struggles with the film’s tone, providing his character with a climactic tearful confession that proves more maudlin than revealing.

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Overall, Bucky F*cking Dent works better as black comedy than drama, with Duchovny and Marshall-Green (who seems slightly too old for his character, although in this case it works) trading funny quips and insults like a seasoned vaudeville comedy team. By the time Marty has revealed his amusing secret about the reason for his longtime Red Sox fandom, you’ve come to fully appreciate his hard-earned irascibility.

Full credits

Venue: Tribeca Film Festival (Spotlight Narrative)
Production companies: Yale Productions, King Baby Productions, Pinnacle Management Group, Great Escape
Cast: Logan Marshall-Green, David Duchovny, Stephanie Beatriz, Jason Beghe, Evan Handler, Santo Fazio, Daphne Rubin-Vega, Pamela Adlon
Director-screenwriter: David Duchovny
Producers: David Duchovny, Jordan Beckerman, Jordan Yale Levine
Executive producers: Peter R. Anske, Randy E. Kleinman, Aviva Carroll, Jason Kringstein, Scott Levenson, Kurt Ebner, Nicholas Donnermeyer, Tiffany Kuzon, Gregory Ruden, Anne B. Ruden, Michael J. Rothstein, Patrick Heaphy, Jeffrey Tussi, David Nazar
Director of photography: Jeff Powers
Production designer: Luke Carr
Editor: Jamie Nelson
Costume designer: Lou Shad|
Composer: Vincent Jones
Casting: Trevor St. Jon David

1 hour 45 minutes

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