160 of 1001 Movies: Buffalo ’66 (1998)

Vincent Gallo seems to be a huge indie director and actor. So dedicated to the genre he’s never let his image surface above it. He brings the most unlikable character to life in Buffalo ’66 though, and while he tries to explain what makes his character so unlikable, it just doesn’t really make you feel better toward the guy. Yeah, he’s had a hard life? But some of it is his bad decisions, and he never took charge of it. The dislike between Vincent Gallo and Christina Ricci is real though, both of them did not get along with the other during filming.

Summary: Billy has spent five years in prison, and he is now free. After getting out he reaches out to his parents, who don’t know he has been in prison. To make his life look somewhat like it has went well, he kidnaps Layla, and makes her pretend to be his soon to be wife. The visit though is quite awkward, but surprisingly Layla is having real feelings toward Billy despite his disdain toward her. She presses on with her feelings though in the hopes that he will eventually change and be able to feel something.

Acting: I can at least give it to the actors, the dislike felt very real. Every mean look between them feels real. Since the two didn’t like each other off screen though you can tell they struggled to get over that on screen. When they need to have chemistry it just isn’t there. While I think the story is very sweet and actually turns out to be unexpectedly romantic, the movie takes a huge hit because it seems Vincent Gallo is gritting his teeth to be in any scene involving Christina Ricci. Vincent is great as Billy when he needs to be mean and cold, and even on his own when he does show other feelings, but put him in a scene with Ricci and it’s back to just looks of hate. Christina Ricci does a bit better because when she needs to show that her feelings are growing for Billy she seems to genuinely express other emotions.

Filming: The film was made in 1998, but it captures the 70’s setting very well. Gallo uses different techniques to bring in flashbacks that gives us an old video vibe that works to move the movie along. The coloring and tone of the film also brings out that 70’s vibe. Some scenes feel a little too long though, and the hour and 50 minutes length just feels very stretched when the movie could have summed up itself in shorter time.

Plot: The story is essentially about Billy and no one else. We look into his background and his present and see what would lead him to the life that he has chosen for himself. He seems to just have had a really bad run of it. What the story doesn’t explain is why a woman like Layla would be so desperate for a guy like Billy. He treats her like dirt the entire time, and her just having met him she can’t understand why that would be or think so little of herself to put up with it without a reason. To think a guy who has kidnapped you is a wonderful guy is a little messed up. Somehow it oddly works though to create chemistry between them. The fact Gallo couldn’t for one moment show something around Ricci though deadens the build up.

Buffalo ’66 is well filmed and the plot is well written. The jokes that land in the movie have a dark tone, but they are pulled off very well to make you laugh when you least expect it. The acting is good as well, but something holds them back from truly not letting this movie go to the next level. It is a piece of art though and has a good soundtrack to back it.

Rating 7 of 10.

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