Having been cast as a child for an undue length of time, Buffalo 66 (1998) was Christina Ricci's chance to play a woman instead of a kid.
By her sexually charged & witty performance, she escaped forever the "child actor" moniker that causes so many young actors to be discarded when no longer children.
She plays Layla (an awful pun) a self-willed eccentric tapdancer who gets kidnapped one day by Billy Brown (Vincent Gallo).
Now many an alleged romance has female characters who fall in love with their kidnappers or even with their rapists, but this one isn't like that. Instead, Layla just never feels threatened by this fool, so she makes light of his menacing posturing & just goes along with him because it's nice to hang out.
She begins to see into his broken ego & finds his sweetness & sensitivity. They're two strange souls & it makes perfect sense that no matter how wretched the manner by which they met, falling for one another makes total sense.
Billy's nutty reason for the initial kidnapping was because he's going home to visit his working class parents, who never found out their unloved son was in prison. He needs a girl to pretend to be his fiance & go along with the ruse of his successful life while away from home.
With as much common sense as in all the bad decisions of his life, kidnapping struck him as the best way to get some girl to go along with such a pretense. He got lucky in nabbing someone sufficiently bemused, snotty, tender, & nutty to really want to help.
His parents-from-hell include Ben Gazarra as the father who once broke his son's dog's neck as an object lesson, & Angelica Huston as the mother who still holds a grudge against her son because she'd planned to cheer her team in the NFL championships on the very day her unborn son put her into ill-timed labor, forcing her to spend that important sports day having a child instead of watching the Bills. She just never got over it.
Gallo wrote & directed as well as co-starred in Buffalo 66. As a first-time director, he came off as an updated John Cassavetes.
There's very little egoism in his self-casting because he plays such a wreck of a loser. This is exactly what I wish more films could be, putting great character actors at center stage instead of Barbies & Kens. Gallo's acting is superb, & Ricci keeps astride of him every inch of the performance journey.
As a scruffy downbeat romance about outcasts, this is an achingly beautiful film. It is at the same time the first great American dark comedy after James Jarmusch's Stranger than Paradise (1984). By the end there are intimations of hopefulness & plenty of humanity as needy lost souls find or learn empathy.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl