Today my friend and I had a movie day, wherein we watched a movie of my choice [Paper Towns] and a movie of his choice, which was this one. I have to admit I went into Buffalo 66 with no idea what it was about or anything. I also feel like I’m not completely qualified to write my reaction to it since we spent a lot of the movie talking – albeit about the themes in the movie – but let’s give it a whirl anyway.
Buffalo 66 is not for the language or nudity weary. Although there’s no a lot of nudity, there is a scene towards the end in a topless bar which might make some uncomfortable. Language for me is no sort of problem, I’ve heard a lot and unless it’s constantly offensive swearing I’m fine with it. Therefore I had very little problem with this movie in these terms, but I wouldn’t recommend it if you do.
The movie starts with us following the character of Billy Brown just as he has been released from a five year sentence in jail. It’s a lot while into the film before we find out why he was in jail and the circumstances surrounding that and because of this the movie has somewhat of a slow start. For a lot while there are a lot of shots where we are just following Billy while nothing really happens.
However this slow start does allow for the keen eye to notice the beauty of the cinematography. There is a very faded look to the colouring of the entire movie. Nothing is particularly intense in terms of colours, instead there’s a focus on pale blue and grey colours.
From the start we see Billy as a rough and harsh character. He is constantly swearing, he lies he’s way through every situation where he sees it necessary, he will use physical force to get what he wants or feels he needs from a situation. The colouring of the film really adds to that as we get an idea of the darkness of his emotions through that lack of brightness. Billy is clearly a person driven by an anger and a sadness that’s so deep that it’s a norm for him.
Thrown into the journey of Billy’s are his parents, Goon/Rocky and Layla. Billy’s parents clearly show an origin to the darkness within him. A mother who cares for little outside of her precious Buffalo team and literally tells her son she wishes he had never been born because labour made her miss them winning the superbowl. A father who seems to forget his son’s existence with just one photo that leads to Billy remembering him killing a puppy. It’s no wonder that Billy lives in a world that lacks colour and vibrance and life given that that is what he begins with.
However, the thought that was running through my mind as I watched Billy and Layla with his parents was that a dark start does not justify being a bad person as an adult. Once you reach adulthood it is your decision to be a good or a bad person. However, the thing that really made me connect with this film was the fact that it showed ‘good’ and ‘bad’ to not be as black and white as that but rather as shades of grey that cross over and get lost. Billy is not a ‘good’ man but throughout the movie we also learn that he is not a ‘bad’ man. He is, in fact, just a man who is trying to do his best with a mind that is constantly against him.
The relationship between Billy and Layla is a truly fascinating one. The movie focuses on Billy’s journey, but I would truly love to have a more indepth look at Layla. A young girl is dragged to her car and told by this violent man that she is going to do these things. At no point does she refuse, at no point does she even try to get away. Billy gives her several chances to and I find it so fascinating that Layla sees something in Billy worth following, worth holding onto, something that he can’t see, something that even the viewer can’t see for a long time.
There are a lot of scenes in this film where the quiet says a lot more than the words. The simplicity of Layla dancing, the mad focus of Billy bowling. Words are almost a secondary feature of the film. It is a film that you have to focus on seeing more than hearing.
Although for a long while I found this moving slow and difficult to get into, eventually I was hooked. I was fascinated by this character of Billy who I hated and routed for at the same time. I was intrigued by the character of Layla who seemed so innocent yet was able to see beyond the apparent brutality of this man. It is not a film that will make you cry, but rather make you stare at the screen stunned at how they could make this psychological rollercoaster so raw and real.