This review may contain spoilers. I can handle the truth.
Dyldo Baggins’s review published on Letterboxd:
This review may contain spoilers.
So first off I’ve read countless articles of how obnoxious and off putting Vincent Gallo is. He’s an egotistical prick who ruined his career through his attitude and actions. He makes it almost impossible to like him. With all that being said, “Buffalo ’66” is nothing short of a masterpiece.
There are moments in this film that are just too hard to watch, and completely off putting, but it manages to pull the rug from under the viewer and become something honest, vulnerable, heart wrenching, and surprisingly hopeful by the end. Vincent Gallo in a way plays himself in the lead role of Billy Brown. He’s a asshole, he’s rude, he’s vicious, and just despicable in every sense of the word. Billy just got out of jail and eventually calls his parents, who he lied to about where he’s been for the last couple years. His mother insists on him bringing his “imaginary wife” to dinner and won’t take no for an answer.
Billy then spots the beautiful and soft spoken Layla (Christina Ricci) and proceeds to kidnap her and make her act as his wife for his parents dinner. Yes, this entire encounter is disturbing, and wrong on so many levels. But the more thought put into it, Layla seems less like some random girl and more of an entity, or a guardian angel of sorts sent to help Billy through his turmoil (more on that later).
Then comes Billy’s incorrigible mother and father. They’re absent, they clearly don’t care much for Billy, and are presented as despicable parents. No wonder Billy is so fucked up. After that wonderful family reunion, comes the bowling alley scene. This part is so crucial, it’s the turning point for the characters, and the film makes a dramatic shift in tone. “Buffalo ‘66” becomes a much more intimate affair from this point on. There is also a surreal tap dancing number with Layla here that makes that case of her having an angelic presence. Nobody sees her dance except the viewer. It would appear she is a godsend of some kind with her beauty, innocence, grace, kindness, and her loyalty to this monster of a man she only met a few hours before.
After all this Billy begins to open up, its the first time he recognizes he is emotionally handicap. With his hate for any kind of physical contact whatsoever, or his clear defense mechanism of being a complete asshole to whoever cares for him. His vulnerability is on full display now, and through all this Layla still sticks by his side. Sure, it could be chalked up to both of them having intimacy issues. But Layla is without a doubt the best thing that could have ever happened to Billy; technically against her will, but she does eventually fall for him. She accepts him with all his flaws and baggage. Billy doesn’t deserve someone like her, and after the life altering decision he makes at the end, it’s clear he sees that.
I can’t recall a film so emotionally potent and subdued in its delivery. This is a very special film that’s quiet, poetic, and honest in its approach. For a film to make someone like Billy somewhat likable by the end is not only impressive, but it’s something that seemed unfathomable in the beginning. It’s a film that sticks with you hours after it’s over. “Buffalo ‘66” shows even pieces of shit like Billy can find love, and even an asshole like Gallo can make a masterpiece.