Butley (1974) - Rotten Tomatoes

Butley (1974)






Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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The American Film Theatre has made movies of a number of significant theatrical performances, including Laurence Olivier's Othello. Another of these filmed theatricals is Simon Gray's Butley, which was brought to the screen by playwright Harold Pinter, and which features an astonishing performance by Alan Bates. The story focuses on one very bad day in the life of Butley (Bates), a feisty, sharp-tongued, lazy and pathetic professor of English. His professional ascendancy is challenged by a slick, accomplished woman many years his junior; his ex-wife gives him conniptions when she announces her remarriage to someone he cannot bear; and his male lover of several years chooses this time to announce that he is leaving him for a sweeter-tempered but very ordinary man of the sort Butley despises. Bleak though this sounds, Butley's unconquerable wit and biting repartee transform this otherwise tragic tale into something of a celebration of survival. ~ Clarke Fountain, Rovimore
Rating: R
Genre: Drama, Art House & International, Classics
Directed By:
In Theaters:
On DVD: Apr 1, 2003

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Alan Bates
as Ben Butley
Jessica Tandy
as Edna Shaft
Richard O'Callaghan
as Joey Keyston
Susan Engel
as Anne Butley
Michael Byrne
as Reg Nuttall
Georgina Hale
as Miss Heasman
Cohn Haigh
as Male Student
Lindsay Ingram
as Female Student
Patti Love
as Female Student
Belinda Low
as Female Student
Oliver Maguire
as Train Passenger
Susan Wooldridge
as Female Student
Simon Rouse
as Gardner
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News & Interviews for Butley

Critic Reviews for Butley

All Critics (7) | Top Critics (4)

Full Review… | June 18, 2005
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Full Review… | October 18, 2008
Top Critic

Full Review… | February 9, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Full Review… | June 18, 2005
New York Times
Top Critic

November 7, 2005

October 12, 2005

Audience Reviews for Butley

Stagy production would be nothing without the great performance given by Alan Bates.

jay nixon

Super Reviewer


In the beginning, there is the cough, as English professor Ben Butley(Alan Bates) has trouble waking up in the morning and cuts himself shaving. He barely makes the tube train, somehow finding a seat where he can smoke and read, which takes him to his university office which he shares with Joey Keyston(Richard O'Callaghan) along with a bed.

I should have known there was something amiss with "Butley" from the opening scene that goes on too long. And if you think that is bad, then the rest of this intermittently witty movie which is set almost exclusively on one set in one running scene is even worse, and somewhat haphazardly directed to boot.(This is one of the American Film Theatre series from the 1970's when the default setting for depicting gay men was bitchy.) As a heavy drinker(it's not the kidneys he should be concerned with...), Butley does slip out down to the pub at one point which is a perfect opportunity for the audience to slip out for a pint or an ice cream sandwich. And as good a performance as Alan Bates gives, it still feels like being trapped in a confined space with a very unpleasant man, giving us a perfect feel for what Joey's life is like on a daily basis. In fact, Butley tries to avoid responsibility whenever possible, playing hide and seek with Carol Heasman(Georgina Hale), a prospective tutorial student, which interrupts him taking stock of the glorious mess of his life in this glorious mess of a movie.

Walter M.

Super Reviewer

The makers want us to feel sorry for the main character, an English professor with severe abandonment issues, but it's hard to sympathize when the story follows such a predictable trajectory of the protagonist bitching about his life to patient listeners and then having those listeners tell him off in the second act. It's a solid one-room drama, albeit one that never quite surprises or enlightens.

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