billy gallo

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For all you lovers out there - and the singles like myself, have I got something for you to kill some time with this Valentine’s Day. One of my all-time favorite love stories BUFFALO ‘66 from 1998. 

This is one of the most heartbreaking movies I’ve ever watched. The story centers around a deeply troubled man named Billy Brown (Vincent Gallo), who has never come to grips with his unhappy childhood. When he is released from prison, he kidnaps a young girl from a tap dance studio (Christina Ricci), dressed like “Barbie as a hooker,” and forces her to pretend to be his wife while he goes to visit his parents.

And that is where the movie really gets good. Because instead of screaming and trying to get away, our girl Layla actually takes it all in stride, and plays along in good spirits. “Why does her character go along with the kidnapping? Why does she throw herself into the role of 'wife’ with such zeal–and invention? Well, it’s more interesting than if she was merely frightened and trying to escape. That would be the conventional approach. There’s not a thing conventional about this movie."  - Roger Ebert

At first Billy just appears to be a high-strung asshole jerk. But as we learn more about his childhood through a series of flashbacks, we see that he’s actually just a scared little boy who never learned how to grow up. Gallo shot these scenes in his childhood home in Buffalo, and has said the parents are based on his own. His memories are like an open wound.

It really becomes quite sad as his story unfolds, and you begin to understand the psychology behind the mad man. His parents show no concern towards him as they obsess over old Buffalo Bills football game tapes; his mother regrets the day of his birth, because that was the only game she had ever missed; and the family photo album contains mainly pictures of OJ Simpson and Jack Kemp, clearly illustrating their indifference toward their only son. But Layla shows so much warmth and compassion for him that it brightens everything right back up, never leaving us in a pit of despair, which is clearly where Billy Brown resides.

Still holding on to the dark side however, Billy is set on getting his revenge on the person he believes to be the reason for his going to prison in the first place:  The Buffalo Bills field goal kicker who lost the Superbowl. In the end will he give in to his anger and self loathing? Or does he accept this new love? Either way it’s an entertaining, introspective study on depression and self-worth, and in the end, real-true compassion and empathy.

What I love most about this movie is the innocence and angst with which it approaches the affair between Gallo and Ricci. It almost feels like a teen dream. It is completely pure and not based on anything superficial. Ricci’s character Layla sees through to Billy’s pain and loves him anyway. It’s real and it’s deep and it’s not about sex. I always feel something when I watch this movie. And I like to have feels.