Butley is not a satisfying film experience, but it is valuable for capturing the electric and captivating performance of star Alan Bates in the title role. Bates gives a tour de force performance, but one in which the actor is at all times serving the character and the needs of the material rather than simply using a flashy part to show off his considerable range and skill. Bates is firmly onscreen throughout and is called upon to create a presence that can hold the entire film together; to make things more difficult, he is given a not very likeable character, self-centered and given to barrages of cruel (if terribly witty and amusing) insults. That Bates makes the audience interested in the character, and even care for him to a sufficient extent, without making Butley sympathetic, is an incredible achievement. A bold, edgy, at times scary performance, it makes the film worth watching, despite flaws such as pedestrian direction that does not do enough to disguise the film's stage origins, an over-extended length, and a cast of characters that often compete with each other for unpleasantness. The supporting cast is excellent, but even as accomplished an actress as Jessica Tandy must take a back seat to Bates' astonishing performance.