“Duck,” review by Susan Granger

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If you love animals and off-beat films, you’ll find them both in this quirky, whimsical, low-budget, independent road movie.

Philip Baker Hall plays Arthur, a retired history professor, who has not only lost his wife and only son but also summarily been evicted from his Los Angeles apartment. With no job and no money, no family and no friends, he’s homeless and hopeless. It’s 2009 and, under President Jeb Bush, all pensions, along with Medicare and Social Security benefits have been abolished.

Planning to kill himself, Arthur walks to a nearby park where he discovers an orphaned duckling – which he names Joe – and discovers a new lease on life. Joe becomes Arthur’s constant companion, like “Travels With Charley,” as this unlikely twosome gamely ventures forth on an odyssey to forge some kind of existence together – if and when they can reach the beach.

It’s not always easy – like when construction workers drain the park’s pond and throw stones at Joe and when a hostile bus driver refuses to allow Joe to ride on her bus. A psychiatric social worker consigns Arthur to a homeless support group where the appeal of the free donuts fails to make up for the hostile conversation. Nevertheless, Arthur befriends a blind man, Norman (Bill Cobb), with a seeing-eye dog, and an Asian immigrant pedicurist (Amy Hill) saves Joe’s webbed feet.

Writer/director Nic Bettauer concocts a truly original cinematic experience – and whether or not you’ll enjoy the various vignettes depends on your willingness to waddle along for the ride. Admittedly, some of their quacking encounters work better than others. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Duck” is a strangely endearing 7. And it’s certainly unique.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, Phi Beta Kappa, with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.