Lost in the Movies: "Hutch" and Chantal Hutchens (TWIN PEAKS Character Series #68)

"Hutch" and Chantal Hutchens (TWIN PEAKS Character Series #68)

The TWIN PEAKS Character Series surveys one hundred ten characters from the series Twin Peaks (1990-91 on ABC and 2017 on Showtime as The Return), the film Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992), and The Missing Pieces (2014), a collection of deleted scenes from that film. A new character study will appear every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday although patrons will have immediate access to each entry a month before it goes public. There will be spoilers.

Loyal to their boss and affectionate toward one another, Hutch and Chantal are casually ruthless - even potentially sadistic - toward everyone outside that circle of three.

Saturday, September 24, 2016
At a South Dakota motel, a somber man in a black jacket knocks on room #7. Chantal answers the door and welcomes her boss inside. He informs her that she needs to clean up a mess in the next room and Chantal expresses relief that he killed Darya as she "was getting so jealous of that bitch." After asking her to be prepared to be at a certain location with Hutch in a few days, the boss motions Chantal over to the bed where he's sitting, reaches under her bathrobe, and notes with cold approval, "Oh, you're nice and wet."

Wednesday, September 28, 2016
Hutch discovers his boss staggering along a dusty rural road with a blood-soaked face and torso. Strolling alongside him and nonchalantly remarking, "Looks like you been spillin'," Hutch guides the boss to a farm where he and Chantal have killed the owners and parked their supplies out back. Chantal, shocked to see the boss' condition, dresses his wounds and gives him a sloppy kiss (with Hutch's cheerful approval) after he offers instructions for the next few days: kill a prison warden and then head to Las Vegas following further instructions for a double-header hit ("Ooh, let's play two," Hutch colorfully responds). The duo consider the possibilities for torture, Chantal's favorite part of the process, but when they reach the warden's house that night she's too hungry to do anything other than quickly dispatch the target. Finishing the warden off in two shots from his safely distanced sniper rifle, Hutch calmly declares, "Next stop, Wendy's!" as the dead man's young son emerges from the house and cries over his father's corpse.

Thursday, September 29, 2016
Entering Utah, the couple muse about Mormons: while their various drinking prohibitions are a drawback, the ability to marry "five or ten women" is a definite perk. Wondering why there aren't more of them, Chantal ultimately concludes that it must be all those alcohol/caffeine restrictions.

Saturday, October 1, 2016
In a cavernous Las Vegas office, Chantal assassinates the man sitting at his desk as well as his assistant standing a few feet away from her. Calling Hutch on her cell on the way out, she's forced to turn around and finish off the loudly wheezing assistant before clarifying her fast food order to her partner. Later that night, parked in an alley under a "beautiful" sky (although it appears unremarkable), Hutch and Chantal muse about the nature of their work and the hypocrisy of the surrounding society. Frustrated by the small ketchup packets but delighted by the prospect of dessert, they declare their love for one another.

Sunday, October 2, 2016
Disguised in coveralls, the killers await their final target's arrival in his neighborhood. Instead they witness a succession of strange visitors: first a group of men in suits driving what look like government cars, then a limo and large cargo van from which women dressed in frilly pink uniforms carry food into the house - a sight which Chantal compares to a "fucking circus parade." Growing frustrated that there's only one Cheetos bag left - and further irritated by Hutch's inquiry if she's "on the rag" - Chantal is already in a poor mood when a man pulls up right in front of them and informs them that they are in his driveway. They angrily deny the charge and the man says simply, "I move car," by which (it turns out) he means their car. Bashing their bumper in an effort to force them back, the man only succeeds in igniting a gunfight; Chantal fires at the driver, who scuttles out of his seat and then returns fire with a machine pistol. Hutch joins in with a shotgun and then a wounded Chantal tries to pull out and away. But their opponent sprays the vehicle as it passes and then continues shooting at its rear, killing Hutch and Chantal in bloody fashion. The van rolls into a streetlight; nearby voices call for an ambulance but it's too late for the hitman and hitwoman who have themselves been hit.

Characters Hutch & Chantal interact with onscreen…

Agent Cooper ("Mr. C")

(also killed Farmer Couple, Warden Murphy, Duncan Todd & Roger)
*retroactively added in March 2024

Impressions of TWIN PEAKS through Hutch & Chantal
As with many characters from The Return's sprawling storylines, it's quite difficult to imagine these two in the town of Twin Peaks (then again, it's just as hard to envision the Mitchum brothers in rural Washington but they do end up there, however briefly). Hutch and Chantal belong to the road, traveling toward their next kill across long, empty highways to the tune of their own chatter and the taste of ubiquitous fast food burgers. By the same token, their drab, disheveled wardrobes and Southern twangs wouldn't fit in with the original Twin Peaks series, so their presence in season three serves as another reminder how things have changed. Above all, these two reflect the influence of Quentin Tarantino since the nineties, on pop culture broadly and David Lynch's work in particular. Tarantino of course was himself influenced by Lynch, and if the eccentric assassins recall any previous Lynch ensemble, it would probably be Wild at Heart - you might not be able to close your eyes and see Hutch and Chantal in Twin Peaks but you can sure as shit spot them strolling through the dusty motel grounds of Big Tuna.

Hutch & Chantal’s journey
These are not characters who achieve, nor seek, much growth. They exist in the moment, playing their role in the larger narrative with ease and delight, another color with which Lynch can dot his canvas. Any dramatic arc exists more in our understanding of their purpose - and nervousness about their destination - than in changes they undergo. Initially, Chantal's place is ambiguous in the Mr. C cosmos (note that they never refer to him as anything other than "boss"). As he instructs her and mentions Hutch, we begin to see that she exists not just to entertain the doppelganger and clean up his messes but to (literally) execute his larger plans. She doesn't seem to need a partner at first, but once Hutch arrives, it's hard to imagine the two apart. Much of what follows was developed on the fly, with the actors encouraging Lynch to give them more material, but the final stop is of course inevitable. The randomness and absurdity of their deaths fit the general tone of Hutch and Chantal, who live in violence but don't take it too seriously. Our final emotion, aside from perhaps some slight regret that we won't get to share their amusing company again, is relief that Chantal's penchant for torture never found release...particularly on the unsuspecting Jones family.

Actor: Tim Roth
Roth made his name in the eighties as an edgy young actor consigned to what UK media dubbed "the Brit pack" alongside Gary Oldman, Daniel Day-Lewis, Colin Firth, and others. He appeared in several major features in 1990, including as part of the villainous entourage in The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover, as Vincent Van Gogh in Vincent & Theo, and as Guildenstern in Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead. Within a few years he initiated his long collaboration with director Quentin Tarantino as Mr. Orange in Reservoir Dogs and as the Pumpkin half of the restaurant-robbing duo Pumpkin and Honey Bunny (Amanda Plummer) whose dialogue kicks off Pulp Fiction with a bang. Thanks to these and other nineties roles like Hoodlum, Roth became associated with the seedy if witty thug archetype he'd later epitomize on Twin Peaks, although his filmography is much more expansive, including titles like Little Odessa, Rob Roy (for which he received an Oscar nomination), Gridlock'd opposite Tupac Shakur as heroin-addicted buddies, the Tim Burton version of Planet of the Apes, Youth Without YouthThe Incredible Hulk, Broken, Selma as Governor George Wallace, 600 Miles, Chronic, and back with Tarantino for The Hateful Eight - the first time Roth worked with his soon-to-be partner-in-crime on Peaks. Roth also helmed the TV show Lie to Me for forty-eight episodes, including one with Sheryl Lee as a calculating politician's wife suspected of foul play; lately he's been back on TV (and in the Marvel Cinematic Universe) as Abomination on She-Hulk. Roth also directed the film The War Zone in 1999; like Fire Walk With Me it centers on a story of incest, which Roth has related to his own childhood experience. (film pictured: Pulp Fiction, 1994)

Actress: Jennifer Jason Leigh
As an adolescent actor in late seventies TV and early eighties film, Leigh - who studied under Lee Strasberg at the age of fourteen - proved quite willing to throw herself into deeply challenging roles. With a doctor's oversight, she dropped to eighty-six pounds for the anorexia-themed The Best Little Girl in the World and left school to portray a deaf, mute, and blind rape victim in Eyes of a Stranger; Wikipedia notes that almost of all of her roles were "fragile, damaged, or neurotic characters in low-budget horror or thriller genre films" (rather dismissively, Entertainment Weekly dubbed her "the Meryl Streep of bimbos"). Nonetheless, it was the poignant high school comedy Fast Times at Ridgemont High that made Leigh a star, hovering at least on the periphery of the uber-eighties "Brat Pack" which inspired the name of Roth's own "Brit Pack". Throughout the late eighties, nineties, zeroes, and teens, she starred in a succession of critically-acclaimed and/or popular roles including Last Exit to Brooklyn (directed by later Peaks alum Uli Edel), Miami Blues, Backdraft, Rush, Single White Female (for which she won the MTV Movie Award for Best Villain), Short Cuts, The Hudsucker Proxy, Georgia (for which she won a New York Critic's Circle Award for Best Actress), Dolores Claiborne, Bastard Out of Carolina, eXistenZ, Margot at the Wedding, Synecdoche, New York, Anomalisa, and as Lady Bird in LBJ. It was the aforementioned The Hateful Eight which finally earned her an Oscar nomination (for Best Supporting Actress) although she'd already been recognized by many as one of the strongest performers of her generation. After earlier recurring roles on Revenge and Weeds, Leigh has shifted to television in recent years, following Twin Peaks with parts on Patrick Melrose, Lisey's Story, Hunters, and Fargo. She also starred in all thirty-eight episodes of Atypical as the mother of the show's autistic protagonist. (film pictured: Fast Times at Ridgemont High, 1982)

Part 2 (Showtime title: "The stars turn and a time presents itself.")

Part 9 (Showtime title: "This is the chair.")

Part 12 (Showtime title: "Let's rock.")

Part 13 (Showtime title: "What story is that, Charlie?")

Part 15 (Showtime title: "There's some fear in letting go.")

*Part 16 (Showtime title: "No knock, no doorbell." - best episode)

Hutch and Chantal are onscreen for roughly seventeen minutes. They are in eight scenes in six episodes, taking place over five different days during about a week and a half. They are featured the most in part 16, when they stake out Dougie and are killed by Zawaski. Their primary location is Lancelot Court (the Jones' neighborhood). They share the most screentime with Mr. C. They are among the top ten characters in part 16.

Best Scene
Part 15: Appreciating Mars, junk food, and America's penchant for violence on the eve of their deaths, Hutch and Chantal are at peace and in love.

Best Line
“So-called Christian nation. Might as well be, thou shalt kill, show no mercy, forgive no one, fuck 'em in the ass!”

Additional Observations

• Ever since Lost Highway, Lynch's first film to exist in a post-Pulp Fiction universe, there's been a kind of ambivalent give-and-take between the two directors. For his part, Tarantino mouthed off after the '92 Cannes Film Festival (where he showed up to premiere Reservoir Dogs) that he used to love Lynch but that Fire Walk With Me went too far; "David Lynch has climbed so far up his own ass that I have no desire to see another David Lynch movie until I hear something different. And you know, I loved him. I loved him." Whether or not Lynch heard this particular diss, he was certainly aware of Tarantino's work and how it accelerated some of the trends in his own Blue Velvet and Wild at Heart (a mixture of comedy and violence, a colorful use of profane yet poetic language, a playful approach to cinematic archetypes, a revival of veteran actors from the sixties and seventies)...all while embracing a more overtly ironic and self-conscious Gen X vibe which the more earnest Lynch generally eschewed. As Lynch's films began to stick to L.A., spend as much time with underworld figures as clean-cut protagonists, and engage with the nineties zeitgeist as well as postwar pop culture, it was hard not to sense a kind of unspoken rivalry. Lynch's most open tributes - think the hitman's hapless episode in Mulholland Drive or especially the goateed hipster slicing his head on the edge of the coffee table in Lost Highway - also played like sly digs at Quentin himself; Tarantino easily could have been cast as that Highway hipster in particular. Though it could all be coincidence - Lynch would certainly forswear any conscious attempt to return QT's putdown - Hutch and Chantal seem too on-the-nose to be accidental. They also feel like his most gracious, affectionate Tarantino tributes yet, with Lynch borrowing from Tarantino's own stable and allowed the actors to expand their roles.

• As in Carl Rodd's entry, Hutch and Chantal's season three interactions can be deceptive. Mr. C is the only other major character they encounter (although they view the Mitchums and Candie from afar, and Chantal mentions Darya). However, their assignments lead them - or at least Chantal - to "interact" (i.e. kill) several other, more minor characters like the warden, Roger, and Duncan Todd, until they in turn are killed by a character with little screentime, the Polish accountant Zawaski.

Next (active on Friday, March 3 at 8am): Sam Colby and Tracey Barberato
Previous: Andrew Packard

To immediately read a month of upcoming entries, updated weekly to stay a month ahead...

(at the time of publication, this includes full entries on new or revised characters among #67 - 46)

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