Greasy, resentful and just released from a five-year turn in the pokey -- he'd made a false confession to get out of a $10,000 debt to a bookie -- he has returned to his home town of Buffalo, New York, because he is desperately grasping for anything familiar to give his life some semblance of control.
He visits his vile, hateful parents (Anjelica Huston and Ben Gazzara)but only after wandering into a dance studio and impulsively kidnapping Layla (Christina Ricci), an innocently voluptuous tap student, to pose as his wife. It's a pathetic attempt to persuade them he has beaten the odds of his unfortunate upbringing, but it backfires.
"Buffalo '66" is a gloomy, slice-of-life drama about people with miserable lives, but at the same time it's a vicious satire of dysfunctional suburbanites.
Failing to find security at home, Billy drags Layla to the bowling alley of his childhood championships -- only to succumb to gutter ball syndrome. Later he demands she pose with him for photo booth snapshots to mail home the next few Christmases and feign that they're a happy couple "spanning time."
Adorably Rubenesque and dyed platinum blonde, Ricci gives a gradually and subtly revealing performance as Layla that helps cement the creative vivacity of the film.
Employing picture-in-picture flashbacks, subjective cameras, and an optically shocking, pioneering technique of pivoting around within a freeze-frame, "Buffalo '66" has an edgy, experimental air to it without feeling gimmicky. But as distinct as Gallo's style is -- the whole picture has a slightly grainy, over-developed look to it -- his visual stunts are used mostly to pry inside Billy's head, aiding the film's emotionally profundity instead of distracting from it.
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