Director : Vincent Gallo
With : Vincent Gallo, Christina Ricci, Angelica Huston
Without a shadow of a doubt, Vincent Gallo has proven himself to be one of the coolest, most versatile celebrities to emerge in quite some time. After fleeing from Buffalo as a teenager to settle in New York, Gallo has been a part of just about every New York cultural scene of any relevance. He once played in a band with Jean-Paul Basquiat, in addition to being a painter, an actor, a Calvin Klein model and now the writer, director and star of one of the year’s best films.
“Buffalo 66” is the semi-autobiographical tale about a loser guy named Billy Brown recently released from prison, after 5 years, for admitting to a crime that he didn’t commit. It would be hard to imagine anyone other than Gallo playing Billy and still ending up with the same film. Gallo’s gaunt face, intensely hollow eyes, and rail-thin physique make his down-and-out character seem so sympathetic. Despite some terrible qualities, you can’t help rooting for him to catch even one small break.
Before leaving for prison he told his father and mother (Ben Gazzara and Anjelica Huston) that he would be away for a few years working on a secret project for the government. While in jail he writes his parents to inform them that he has gotten married, hoping to further legitimize himself in the eyes of his apathetic parents. While on a hilarious search for a place to empty his bladder, the waifish Gallo kidnaps the sexy Layla, played (brilliantly by an ultra-cute Christina Ricci as a teenage Lolita) from a tap dancing class.
After explaining to Layla that he needs her to act like a loving wife for one afternoon, they head to Billy’s childhood home, a place adorned with Buffalo Bills regalia, to have dinner with his parents. Billy’s mother is a football-obsessed women, who has never been able to forgive her son for causing her to miss the 1966 Bill’s championship game due to his birth. After an awkward homecoming, Billy and Layla spend the rest of the evening killing time and beginning to fall in love.
Stylistically, the film is a brilliant fusion of low-budget-looking scenes, intended to intensify the awkwardness of certain moments, and flashier surreal episodes made to look somewhere between fiction and reality. Vincent Gallo manages to capture the seedier side of Buffalo, visiting a bowling ally, strip joint, cheap motel and a late night donut shop in search of something that will make his life worth living. “Buffalo 66” also features one of the best endings in recent history – an ending that fills you with a bizarrely intense feeling of joy. Aside from the stellar performances by himself and Christina Ricci, Gallo’s use of Kevin Corrigan as “Goon,” Mickey Rourke as a two-bit bookie, and Ben Gazarra and Anjelica Huston as his parents make for an immensely entertaining two hours.
In the end, Gallo is all about cool. He makes geek mean cool. He makes loser mean cool. Some guys can do that, but you’ve got to be smart to pull it off, and from the looks of it Gallo’s never not pulled it off.