“I hope you guys enjoy this film, and I really hope you don’t wanna murder me afterward,” said writer/producer Brian Sacca by way of introducing Buffaloed when it played at the Buffalo International Film Festival a few months ago.
The Lockport native and Nichols school graduate needn’t have worried. Not only was this raucous comedy well received at BIFF, it went on to get a deal from a major distributor (Magnolia Pictures) that is opening it in theaters across the country today, to generally enthusiastic reviews from national critics. The New York Times even made it a “Critic’s Pick” for the week.
In other words, you don’t just have to take my word for it.
The title doing double duty as the film’s setting and a verb that also means “to bully,” Buffaloed concerns some folk that a lot of people might like to murder, if only in their fantasies: debt collectors. Zoey Deutch stars as Peg, a South Buffalo girl with the brains and the ambition to make enough money to get out of town. The one thing she lacks is judgment: instead of going to study business at the Ivy League college that accepts her, she spends three years in prison when her illegal scheme to earn tuition money backfires.
After she serves her time, Peg is left with even fewer options, if just as much drive. So she goes to work in the one industry that will not only employ a convicted felon but pay her commensurate with her effort: working the telephones shaking down debtors.
(It won’t be news to many that Buffalo is a haven for this particular industry, and Sacca’s script borrows from The Big Short in clarifying how it works, cutting though a lot of the self-justifying bullshit to clarify that, yes, you are getting screwed.)
As Peg rises in this grungy industry, putting together her own crew and going to war with her mentors, the script walks a tightrope between our enjoyment in her inventiveness and our distaste at this business. That she will eventually come out on the side of the angels is no surprise. But what keeps us on her side is the energetic, wholly committed performance from Deutch. She’s nothing short of delightful, and reason enough to see the movie.
Buffaloed was directed by the capable Tanya Wexler: you may remember her 2011 comedy Hysteria, starring Hugh Dancy and Maggie Gyllenhaal, about how Victorian medicine gave the world the vibrator. Aside from a few obvious exterior shots in the opening sequence in wasn’t filmed here: most of the exteriors were shot in Hamilton, and the interiors in Toronto. But it’s a capable enough impersonation, helped by the fact that the costumes were acquired from South Buffalo thrift shops. (I’d be willing to bet that Deutch and Judy Greer, who plays her mother, came along on those trips to research their accents, which are spot on.)
Sacca’s script is loaded with Buffalo references that will tickle local audiences, and has some fun with our proclivity for sports and getting wings from the right place. It’s a blue collar movie that isn’t going to make anyone want to move here, but I’m fine with that: take us as we are or leave us alone.
Buffaloed is now playing at the North Park Theater.