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Buffalo ’66 (1998) (Classic Film Review)

REVIEW OVERVIEW

The Film
The Plot
Character -- Lead
Character -- Supporting
Directing
Cinematography
Overall

SUMMARY

Newly released from prison, Billy, who has been concealing his incarceration from his dysfunctional parents and lying about being successful and having a wife, kidnaps dancer Layla to get her to pretend to be his wife on a visit to his parents in this 1998 dark comedy from actor/director Vincent Gallo.

Buffalo ’66 is a 1998 film that revolves around Billy, who is newly released from prison and kidnaps a young woman named Layla to get her to pretend she is his wife on a visit to his eccentric parents’ home.

PLOT

Billy Brown just got released from prison and he calls his parents’ home. They are totally unaware of the time he served in prison, as he used to lie them. He tells his mother that he has a successful career and a wife, but she insists on meeting her. Since he has no wife, he kidnaps young Layla and forces her to pretend she is his wife and they are a loving couple. It is obvious Billy grew up in a dysfunctional family, with an aggressive father and an uncaring mother, who contributed to his odd personality. After the visit Layla has many opportunities to leave, still they keep hanging out, as if she has some form of Stockholm Syndrome. Billy’s plan is to kill the man who was responsible for him ending up in jail. Will he stick to his initial plan or will Layla be the game changer?

The movie’s plot is controversial and someone might be put off in the beginning, but it surely is a film with complex meaning that gives good food for thought. It is assisted by the strong performances from the cast, the quotes, the technical prowess of the filmmakers and the atmosphere that occasionally alleviated some darker moments and made it look like a dark comedy, and it is balanced by some emotional moments.

My only complaint is that I wish we had the chance to explore Layla as a character more. Some of her decisions are questionable, early in the film she barely talks and we don’t learn much about her. We only get to know her from her actions. We do not have the chance to really get to know her on a personal level or see her past and her relations with her family, like we did with Billy.

CHARACTERS

  • Billy Brown (Vincent Gallo) is a man who is just released from prison. He had to serve time because he was forced to confess a crime he never committed as a way to pay back a debt after he lost a big bet of $10,000. He is very aggressive and always talks badly to people. He grew up in a problematic family, with an aggressive and violent father and a neglectful mother. However, he cares a lot about their opinion, that’s why he lies to them about the time he is away. He tells them he has a good job and a wife. Since there is no wife in his life, he kidnaps Layla and makes her pretend she is his wife and act like they are a normal couple. Billy is always mean to Layla, even when she tries to understand him and build some intimacy with him. He particularly hates being touched or hugged and he feels uncomfortable being seen naked. Generally his relation to the opposite sex is very troubled, with him saying some misogynistic things about women which is mostly like a fear towards them.
  • Layla (Christina Ricci) is a young dancer who is practicing at the place where desperate Billy chooses to urinate after many hours of not finding a toilet. She has a little argument with Billy concerning his manners and later she is kidnapped by him. Layla is annoyed by his behavior and really wants everything to be over, which is why she does a very good job at convincing Billy’s parents she is a very good wife and they are a couple in love. What we start to realize later though is that Layla has her chances to leave, but she stays. As time passes, she empathizes with him and tries to get closer to him. Is it love or some trick to get away from him?
  • Jan Brown (Anjelica Huston) is Billy’s mother who is obsessed with every Buffalo Bills game, to the point she actually regrets giving birth to her son on the day of a big game and obviously missing the fun. She barely remembers important details about her son, like his allergies, likes, and dislikes.
  • Jimmy Brown (Ben Gazzara) is Billy’s father. He loses his temper very easily and has a strange bond with his son. He once killed his son’s dog to teach him responsibility, which makes him violent and mean, as he was just a child. Also, he constantly touches Layla in an inappropriate way during the family gathering.
  • Goon is Billy’s friend. Now he wishes to be called Rocky. He does not want to hang out with him anymore because of his constant tantrums and bad manners. He is a little awkward.

ACTING

Vincent Gallo (as Billy) and Christina Ricci (as Layla) are amazing at their roles. It is obvious that there was a lot of work done – plus their bad working relationship- and that is something that shows from their fight scenes. These scenes, where we see Layla trying to console and be intimate with Billy, and watching him rejecting it in an abrupt way look so natural. There is a lot of chemistry, which becomes obvious in the photo booth and bed scenes. Vincent Gallo exceptionally portrays the deranged man and Christina Ricci shines as innocent and empathetic Layla and together they establish a very emotional atmosphere which makes us fall in love with the characters and the film in general.

Both Anjelica Huston and Ben Gazzara deliver performances worth watching as Jan and Jimmy Brown respectively. Kevin Corrigan is also very good as Goon/Rocky, but for his limited screen time.

DIRECTION/ CINEMATOGRAPHY

One of the most intriguing parts of the movie is the technical aspect. Directing changes occasionally from vigorous like when Billy is kidnapping Layla to more passive like in the bed scene. The opening shot also is very appealing. The visuals are very captivating. Flashbacks appear at the center of our screen and more and more scenes appear gradually filling the whole screen like a collage. At the same time, everything dreamlike. Director Vincent Gallo and cinematographer Lance Acord did an amazing job.

END

As far as the ending is concerned, I have to say I enjoyed its satirical tone. Although you cannot deeply sympathize with the situation that is going on between Billy and Layla, I somehow ended up really satisfied with the finale.

Buffalo ’66 was originally released in theaters in the US on 26 June 1998


  • Rating Certificate: R (for language, strong violent images and scenes involving nudity)
  • Studios & Distributors: Cinépix Film Properties | Lions Gate Films | Muse Productions
  • Country: United States | Canada
  • Language: English
  • Run Time: 110 Mins.
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Director: Vincent Gallo
  • Written By: Vincent Gallo (original story) | Alison Bagnall (screenplay)
  • Release Date: 26 June 1998 (US)
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Buffalo '66 (1998) (Classic Film Review)Newly released from prison, Billy, who has been concealing his incarceration from his dysfunctional parents and lying about being successful and having a wife, kidnaps dancer Layla to get her to pretend to be his wife on a visit to his parents in this 1998 dark comedy from actor/director Vincent Gallo.
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