"To Surreal, With Love"
What You Need To Know:
A minor gem, BUFFALO 66 is a touching tale of a man's life without love. Billy Brown, played winsomely by the movie's director Vincent Gallo, has lived a harrowing life of neglect by his football-crazed parents, played by Angelica Huston and Ben Gazzara. The story spans the day he is released from prison for a crime he didn't commit, a fact he has kept from his parents. Billy kidnaps a young dancer, played by Christina Ricci, to play his nonexistent wife to impress his parents. Layla understands Billy's pain, however, and they begin to connect to one another.
Containing excessive foul language and some nudity, BUFFALO 66 presents a humanist worldview because it says the solution to Billy's problems lie in human love, not the ultimate source of love, God. The acting is superb, however, among all four leads. Also, despite some self-indulgent scenes and a plot that is slow at times, director Gallo and his co-writer Alison Bagnall create a truthful, almost surreal sketch of a lost soul who has given up on love yet still yearns for it. The final impression of BUFFALO 66 is a hopeful one. Billy finds that love does indeed exist in a world gone wrong.
(H, B, LLL, V, N, A) Humanist worldview with moral elements; 41 obscenities & 14 profanities; man shoots man & then himself; no implied or depicted sexuality; upper male & female nudity & man in underwear sits in bathtub with nude woman; alcohol use; and, lying & kidnapping.
BUFFALO 66 is a touching tale of a man’s life without love. Billy Brown, played winsomely by Vincent Gallo, was born in Buffalo, New York in 1966 and has lived a harrowing life of neglect. His parents, played powerfully by Angelica Huston and Ben Gazzara, are Buffalo Bills football fans who have never missed a game, except the day Billy was born. At one point, his mother reminisces that she wishes she had never had him for that reason.
The movie covers the day that Billy is released from prison for a crime he did not commit. Billy’s only crime seems to be that he still craves love and affection from his parents and will go to extreme lengths to get even one drop. This day is a metaphor for Billy’s life – it is bleak, gray, cold, and unforgiving. Billy finds a restroom in a dance studio where he uses the phone to call his parents. From this conversation, the audience learns that Billy hasn’t told his parents he has been in prison. Instead, he developed an elaborate lie about working for a secret government agency. The heartbreak is that his parents couldn’t care less; they seem far more interested in meeting his “wife,” who doesn’t really exist.
Billy kidnaps the dancer from the studio who loaned him the quarter to make the phone call. Layla, played with touching restraint by Christina Ricci, is scared at first but gives herself over to playing the role of Billy’s loving wife. The movie indicates that Layla understands Billy’s pain and experiences, and there seems to be some truth to her words that she cares for him. Although this premise is implausible, it works in the movie because Ricci has a curious mixture of innocence and melancholy that connects to Billy in a believable way.
For adults who appreciate careful character studies, this movie is a minor gem, though it does move slowly at times. BUFFALO 66 is an interesting portrait of the family structure gone wrong, and its devastating effects on a child. Billy is a man bound by shame and doesn’t even want Layla to touch him, thus there is no sex in the movie. (There is, however, upper male and female nudity in the film and scenes of a man shooting a man and then himself in slow motion.)
Director Gallo paints Billy’s world with the colors of a humanist’s pallette. He presents human love as the solution to Billy’s problems, not the ultimate solution of God’s love. Gallo paints this picture in an almost surreal fashion by using odd angles, a harrowing use of blue filters for mood and a furiously bleak set design that is a bit over the top. Gallo also goes over the top with self-indulgent scenes such as when Layla breaks out in tap dancing at the bowling alley.
Overall, however, Gallo and his co-writer Alison Bagnall create a truthful sketch of a man who has given up on love yet still yearns for it. The final impression of BUFFALO 66 is a hopeful one. Billy finds that love does indeed exist in a world gone wrong.