The Baxter

This was the official website for the 2005 film, The Baxter. The content below is from the site's 2005 archived pages as well as outside reviews of the movie.


Michael Showalter as Elliot Sherman
Elizabeth Banks as Caroline Swann
Michelle Williams as Cecil Mills
Justin Theroux as Bradley Lake
Peter Dinklage as Benson Hedges
Zak Orth as Wendall Wimms
Michael Ian Blackas Ed
Catherine Lloyd Burns as Stella
Paul Rudd as Dan Abbott

Written and directed by
Michael Showalter
Comedy, Indie, Romance
Rated PG-13
91 minutes


The Baxter (noun)

Mr. Wrong. A compromise to "true love." The epitome of "settling."

In every romantic comedy there's always that scene at the end where the leading man barges through the chapel doors just as the leading lady is about to marry the Wrong Guy. This movie is about the guy left at the altar. The wrong guy. That guy is called the Baxter. The Baxter is the kind of guy you "settle" for because you can't be with the one you really love.

And no one's ever been more of a Baxter than tax accountant Elliot Sherman (played by writer/director/star Michael Showalter). Nice but safe, Elliot has been left at the proverbial 'altar' more times than once. From high school to college to business school, Elliot always finds himself on the losing end of the love triangle.

After swearing off relationships once and for all, Elliot decides to take the plunge one last time when he meets his dream woman, beautiful magazine editor Caroline Swann (Elizabeth Banks). But just as he's about to hear wedding bells, her hunky, long-lost high school sweetheart Bradley Lake (Justin Theroux) turns up out of the blue, triggering Elliot's fears of yet another colossal dumping. As Elliot feels his life spinning into a downward spiral, things begin to change when he encounters Cecil Mills (Michelle Williams), an adorable office temp/aspiring singer just off the bus from Fergus Falls, Minnesota. Cecil tells Elliot, "Your problem is that you're not willing to take a risk. Leading men take risks."

As Elliot struggles to assert himself for the first time, a series of escalating comic events are set in motion, until finally, with Cecil's help, he learns how to step into center stage in his own life and leave Baxter-hood behind forever.

Co-starring Zak Orth, Michael Ian Black, Peter Dinklage, David Wain and Paul Rudd, THE BAXTER, reminiscent of the classic American romantic comedies of the forties, is a love story where nice guys finish first for once.

IFC Films presents an IFC Production/Plum Pictures Production, THE BAXTER, written, directed and starring Michael Showalter. Co-starring Elizabeth Banks, Michelle Williams and Justin Theroux, the film is set to open in the summer of 2005 through IFC Films.




OK, so yuo'll read the critics reviews and they aren't enthusiastic. In fact on the Rotten Tomatoes' Tomatometer it rated only a 37%. The audience were a bit more forgiving with a 75% approval rating. I didn't see it at its release in 2005. In fact I just watched it recently on DVD. This low-key comedy which invents a culture of upscale WASP nerdiness that Showalter gets to act out with the maximum mannerisms unfortunately had mostly by mediocre dialogue. But Peter Dinklage completely stole the movie, as he frequently does, while Michelle Williams was delightful. That evening was memorable, not because of the movie, however. My dog and some wayward chocolate made it memorable! The evening I watched the first half of The Baxter, my dog decided to eat some chocolate my nephew had dropped unnoticed on the floor. The poor pooch ended up throwing up the chocolate, which was good since it can be deadly to a canine, and his doggy dinner all over an antique rug. Why didn't he throw up in the kitchen on the tile floor? I ended up half way through the movie searching madly on my computer for a company that specializes in local Persian rug cleaning NYC. I really lucked out finding a local rug company that turned out to be perfect. The representative who came was thorough in his inspection and assured me the vomit stains could be removed. He said once the rug arrives at their cleaning facility, an expert would examine the rug again to determine what is the best way to wash the rug according to its condition. A week later the rug returned looking great, the charge was reasonable considering the issues. My nephew now knows he can't leave chocolate lying around. And I finished The Baxter. I'd rate this very quirky film 3 stars, although it was full of cliches about losing the girl to the other more exciting guy. Well, you can make up your own mind. It's available on Netflix.


August 26, 2005 - Opening Day

Hello and welcome to my journal! Today is day one. Opening day. The Big Day. The Big...pig? Anyway, I'm really excited for everyone to go see The Baxter. In this journal I will give a revealing first hand account of what it's like to have a major motion picture come out and I will give candid and surprising details about my experience of making this movie. Everything you read will be true. I am in Seattle right now, where the movie will be opening on the 16th, last night I had a great screening at the 7 Gables Movie Theater. There may be 7 Gables but there's only 1 screen at the 7 Gables which I found interesting. Then again, I'm not really sure what a "gable" is so if there were 100 Gables I'd have been no less confused. I wore a plaid shirt to the screening because of the whole grunge thing and as a result I fit right in. That's true. What's also true is that grunge is dead and I was the only person in the theater wearing a plaid shirt. That's so like me. Always, 10 or 15 years behind the trends. Don't even get me started on the time I wore spats to my eighth grade prom. Back in NY, my dear friend and fellow castmate Justin Theroux is going to be doing Q&A's at the two evening screenings of the movie at the IFC Center theater tonight. I encourage everyone to see him. He's funny, smart, engaging and most importantly...his voice is magic. Like, if you have back pain, you'll be cured just by listening to his voice.


August 29, 2005 - Day Four

Now I'm in San Francisco. It's technically not day two. Technically it's day four. (I spent the weekend at a lovely wedding in Northern California. The groom, my friend, was victorious in not having his bride swept off her feet at the last moment. I suspect they'll live happily ever after) Last night, I had the strange experience of turning on my TV at the hotel I'm staying at in San Francisco and watching Ebert and the other guy talking about The Baxter on their show "Ebert & The Other Guy." They loved it...sort of...not really. Still, having Ebert and The Other Guy talking about your film is always a career moment even when they both agreed that "Michael Showalter was miscast." But hey, people said the same thing about Brando at first. (I actually have no idea if that's true.) I just wish they had a couple more options for their thumbs besides only up and down. It's sort of like communist Russia on that show, with so few options. The beauty of America is all of the options we have. Like if you go into a supermarket there aren't just two kinds of peanut butter, right? There's many kinds of peanut butter See? I heard that in Russia they wait in line for days just to buy a pair of jeans. I lost my train of thought... 


** Roger Ebert

September 8, 2005

We are informed early in "The Baxter" that "the baxter" is a term for the guy in a movie who never gets the girl. This came as news to me, and I expect it will come as a shock to my friend Billy (Silver Dollar) Baxter, who always gets more or less what he wants, especially when he wants a good seat in a restaurant, which is usually harder to get than the girl.

The movie stars Michael Showalter as Elliot Sherman, who is the baxter, and has been told about baxters by his grandmother, which means baxters are entering their third generation of nobody ever having heard about them. Given the definition of a baxter, I guess that makes sense. The opening scene shows Elliot at the altar, about to marry a girl, when the man she truly loves bursts into the church and sweeps her away. That's the baxter: The guy left at the altar. I'm trying to think of the name of the baxter in "The Graduate."

Elliot, it must be said, richly deserves to be a baxter. He is a Certified Public Accountant who is engaged to a smart, hot, successful young woman named Caroline (Elizabeth Banks), who is playing well below her league. Maybe she wants to marry Elliot so she won't always be bothered by having a husband. But when her high-school honey Bradley (Justin Theroux) turns up, she forgets all her reasons for wanting to marry Elliot, if there are any.

Actually, there aren't any. It is Michael Showalter's misfortune to be releasing a movie about a boring and unlikeable nerd only two weeks after the opening of "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," which stars Steve Carell as a fascinating and lovable nerd. The thing you have to remember about movie nerds is that they're movie nerds; they're nerds for the convenience of the plot, but secretly fascinating. To be a good nerd in a movie, a nerd should resemble a baked potato, as I have so often heard them described by Billy (Silver Dollar) Baxter: "I've been tubbed, I've been scrubbed, I've been rubbed! I'm lovable, huggable and eatable!"

There is, luckily, a baked potato in "The Baxter." She is played by Michelle Williams, as Cecil Mills, the cute temp who is right there in Elliot's outer office and adores him and is perfect for him and is cuter than a button and almost as cute as two buttons. She glows in the movie. She glows so much, indeed, that I was waiting for her to dump Elliot, too. She's too good for a baxter.

There's also a hilarious supporting performance by Peter Dinklage, as a wedding planner named Benson Hedges. His name reminds me of the year Edy Williams introduced me to her date on Oscar night: "I'd like you to meet Dean Witter." Dinklage, who you may remember from "The Station Agent" (and if you don't, that is the next movie you should rent) plays a gay dwarf who not only steals every scene he's in, but pawns it and buys more scenes and walks off with them, too. He has a little routine with cute guys on a city sidewalk that is like a meditation on hope and lust. Benson may be a Hedges, but he will never be a baxter.

The problem with "The Baxter" is right there at the center of the movie, and maybe it is unavoidable: Showalter makes too good of a baxter. He deserves to be dumped. At some point everyone in the movie should have jilted him and gone off and started a movie of their own. If Elliot ever gets to the altar with Cecil, Benson Hedges the wedding planner should march in and sweep her away. Yes, he's gay, but maybe they could work out something. He could plan her into another wedding.


The Baxter

By Nathan Rabin  Aug 23, 2005

The Baxter opens with a scene mirroring the famed ending of The Graduate, in which Dustin Hoffman interrupts Katharine Ross' wedding to some anonymous blueblood and spirits her away on a magical public-bus ride to uncertainty. In his directorial debut, Wet Hot American Summer writer-actor Michael Showalter gives a name and an existential identity to that poor, insufficiently charismatic, perpetually frustrated soul left stranded at the altar while the hero gets the girl: a Baxter. His film dares ask what would happen if a romantic comedy were told from the perspective of a Baxter, that nice, agreeable fellow whose modest charms seldom inspire the kind of outsized, melodramatic emotions on which romantic comedies thrive. It's a wonderful premise, and it seems like an ideal fit for Showalter, whose show Stella is currently providing television with some of its most surreally inspired deadpan absurdism since Get A Life.

So why isn't The Baxter an unqualified triumph? Probably because its knockout premise is also its biggest conceptual miscalculation. A truly great Baxter throws off the balance of the film he's in by being more sympathetic or appealing than the ostensible romantic hero, as Rudy Vallee did as arguably the greatest Baxter of all time in The Palm Beach Story. But Showalter is no Vallee, or even Ben Stiller in Reality Bites, to cite a more recent example. No, Showalter's Baxter is a bit of a stiff, an accountant who falls for plastic beauty Elizabeth Banks while fumbling his way through an awkward mating dance of the über-nerds with temp Michelle Williams, who exudes the squirmy, precious vulnerability of a wet puppy. Showalter and Williams are adorable as geeks who take forever to realize just how much they dig each other, but neither makes for a particularly satisfying romantic lead. That's ultimately the film's fatal flaw: it bumps Showalter's Baxter up to the role of the romantic lead without giving him an equivalent increase in complexity or depth.

Few genres are as formula-bound as the romantic comedy, and The Baxter's funniest moments goof irreverently on the genre's clichés, but for much of its duration, Showalter can't seem to decide whether to satirize those conventions or follow them in a slightly different form. Thanks to regular David Gordon Green cinematographer Tim Orr, The Baxter looks great, and Showalter's Stella-mate David Wain has a funny cameo, but it's hard not to see the film as a blown opportunity. Showalter's comedy asks why Baxters can't be romantic leads, then inadvertently provides an all-too-convincing answer at feature length.