*** out of **** stars
The only sequence of Buffalo '66 that warmed my heart with thankful relief from almost two hours of wondering why the main character - Billy Brown (Vincent Gallo)- would make such unorthodox decisions against the obvious, right decisions, was during the last five minutes (approx.) of the film. What a pay off! What a tension breaking five minutes it was! I felt I could breathe easy after happily discovering that Billy is a man that can make loving, almost predictable and sane decisions after all, and all because of Layla (Christina Ricci), the new angel in his life, who he haphazardly "kidnapped" in a dance studio; who he finally realizes is his savior. We never find out much about Layla, if anything at all. Where does she come from and why is she the way she is? Why does she see a loving light in despicable Billy? Why doesn't she leave him, after so much verbal abuse and selfishness? I believe the reason she doesn't is because director, writer, composer and actor Gallo understands that in most scripts out of cliché Hollywood, she WOULD leave Billy. And then what kind of movie would we have? One that we've seen time and time again. The decisions that the characters make in Buffalo '66's entire time frame are the antithesis of conventionalism.
What makes Billy Brown tick is strenuously simple, but only after a fair amount of contemplation after spending time with him: his parents, played by Ben Gazzara and Anjelica Huston, have systematically not given their son an ounce of validation of pride or yes, love, for his entire life, spent in frigid Buffalo, New York. Billy has spent his whole life excessively fabricating his importance in hope to gain that validation, but never with any success. Whether biological parents can demonstrate such intense apathy and coldness toward their own flesh and blood, as seen in this movie, is up for debate. But if they were able to be so callously and blindly bold, the bitter and sad result of such a man as Billy seems plausible. Gallo's skillful acting ability in his role floors me, because we actually somehow care for Billy. And why should we? Because through his sin we envision humanness that, I believe, we can all relate to: the errors we make; the lack of self-worth we may feel; loneliness; rejection; and the pain that is inflicted upon us from those who are supposed to unconditionally love us the most. Ricci's astounding performance, which I believe carries the most improvisation of any character in the film, brilliantly sheds the most light on the movie's message, which is: when someone cares about you more than themselves, it can truly change you for the better, no matter how much emotional baggage you may have. If we all had a Layla in our lives, psychiatrists would go into extinction.
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