I first saw the trailer
for Buffalo '66 is the Drexel, the local arthouse
theater. Synchopated Yes
music, surreal imagess, and Chirstina Ricci
. I'd loved her in both of The Addams Family
movies, and even more in The Opposite of Sex
so i went.
The protagonist is one Billy Brown, who meets Ricci's character Layla as she is leaving dance class, and promptly kidnaps her. Brown is played by Vincent Gallo who wrote and directed the film. Billy is fresh from prison, and clearly all the way off his rocker. He doesn't want to hurt her, it's just that he's going home to his parents, who don't know he's been a prisoner. He plans to die soon, and wants them to believe that he's married to a pretty girl. He tells her he'll let her go, but only after she prentends to be his wife.
Layla sees no alternative to this and hope for leaving so agrees to meet his parents, Janet and Jimmy (Anjelica Huston and Ben Gazzara). They live in a '60s middle class split level with typically '60's kitsch decor. Upon entering Layla begins to understand just where Billy came from.
For Janet and Jimmy are even farther off their rocker than Billy. He's been away for years, but his appearance barely dents their routine. Janet is obsessed with the Buffalo Bills, in particular one season where they almost made the playoffs, only to be thwarted by a missed field goal. Again and again she watches the game on VCR, rooting as it were happening in front of her, trying to remake history through sheer force of will. Jimmy is little better, a menial worker who claims to be a singer, and proves it by lip-synching to a record long before karaoke. They live in their in insular world of co-dependency.
That experience transforms Billy in Layla's eyes. HIs parents are so abnormal that Billy's own schizophrenia seems perfectly natural. He's as normal as he could be comng from such a home. Kind even. And she understand what Billy wants more than anything is a normal home life. That's why she's there pretending to be his pretty, attentive wife. And that's why he's planning a murder
The failed place kicker of that Buffalo '66 team is still in town, the very public owner of a seedy nudie bar. Billy wants to kill him, He had bet a lot of money on the game and lost, and his prison tenure came to pay off that debt. But i think he also hopes the murder may in some way break his mother's obession, the same reason he bet the money in the first place.. He wants mom to turn off the game and pay attention to the real world.
Gallo's film is a good film, and he plays Billy quite believably, though it seems that Billy's parents as his could exist only in a David Lynch universe. The film owes much to Lynch, from the understated irrationality of Jimmy and Janet to certain hallucinations, and Ricci's tap dance routine on a bowling alley. Ricci is even able to make Layla's conversion to Billy's side somewhat believable, able to imply that perhaps her own world had its own skeletons.
Yet Buffalo '66 remains very much a strange, offbeat film driven by its own internal logic. It is a good arthouse film, well acted and original. But it really doesn't offer that much of a satisfying conclusion, but instead a step back from the abyss that may be retaken.