Indie filmmaker Vincent Gallo debuts with gritty, nasty love story.
Thursday, August 13, 1998
"Indie! Indie! Indie!" is the unspoken mantra behind Buffalo 66, enfant terrible Vincent Gallo''s directorial debut (he was previously seen in Palookaville as well as a series of Calvin Klein ads). Even though independent cinema in America has almost completely been co-opted by the major studios (and anyone who thinks Miramax isn''t a major these days is kidding themselves), Gallo''s battle cry makes for a fiercely humorous slice of unreality that soars even when it''s crawling in the gutter and puking on itself. Gallo has recruited a stellar cast and then played them down into the depths of his tale''s depravity so much that you hardly recognize Anjelica Huston or anyone else.
In a film populated by the hapless dregs of society, there are no star turns, and yet every character is cleverly portrayed, fully fleshed-out and functional, and frequently downright creepy. Gallo is Billy Brown, a scrawny, pale wingnut who, with his flared floodpants, red faux-leather disco boots, and too-tight tube tops, looks for all the world like God''s loneliest toothpick. As Buffalo ''66 opens, he''s fresh out of jail (featuring an extended, painful, semi-comic sequence which involves a desperate search for a bathroom) and on his way to his parents'' house. Before going in the joint for a five-year stretch--necessitated by a botched $10,000 bet on the Buffalo Bills--Billy told his parents he was married to a beautiful woman and worked a secure, government job.
Rather than reveal the lie, Billy promptly kidnaps Layla (Christina Ricci) and forces her (well, sort of forces her--she seems liable to go along with anything) to pretend she''s his better half. After a protracted and Lynchian nightmare meeting with his family, the pair split up briefly while Billy goes in search of the Bills'' place-kicker who lost that long-ago bet for him. But the real crux of Gallo''s film is the reconciliation with one''s childhood, and, sentimental thug that Gallo is, the search for Love.
Gallo populates the film with the oddest of oddballs, least of which is naif Billy. Ricci pulls off yet another delicious, subversive turn, while Ben Gazzara and Huston are everybody''s Hell Parents: Billy''s mom has never forgiven him for being born during the Buffalo Bill''s only Superbowl win, and his old man (the title fits him like the sweaty white T-shirt he wears) couldn''t care less about him. Comedy is birthed of tragedy, I know, but this is...ouch. Gallo packs the film with odd, endearing flourishes that detract a bit from the storyline but add to the overall whole: his father, crooning an old love song to Ricci, Billy''s mildly retarded buddy Goon (Kevin Corrigan, of all people) who only wants to be called Rocky, and the whole, hyper-seedy look of the picture that makes you want to scrub with bleach once you get home.
In the end, it''s a love story after all, but a peculiarly Gallocentric one -- cheap, nasty, but salvageable nonetheless.