Buffaloed (2019) Non-Spoiler Review
Buffaloed is a 2019 American comedy film directed by Tanya Wexler and stars Zoey Deutch. This is Wexler’s fourth feature film, with her most notable film prior being the 2011 comedy Hysteria. Deutch was new to me, but previously she has been in Everybody Wants Some!! (2016), Vampire Academy (2014), and most recently Zombieland: Double Tap (2019) which I STILL need to go and see! The film also has Judy Greer (Halloween (2018)) and Jai Courtney (Suicide Squad’s Captain Boomerang) in supporting roles. The film debuted at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival where it was acquired by Magnolia Pictures for distribution. Now how did I end up in a showing for this film? Well, with my membership to the amazing art-house theater in town I get free tickets. And Buffaloed happened to be the only film showing the other day that wasn’t one of the Oscar films (of which, I have already seen the majority). And to my joy, I was the only person in the theater for the screening, which was AMAZING! But how did I like the film? Let me give a quick, non-spoiler synopsis and then I will get into my pros and cons!
Spoiler Free Synopsis
The film centers around Peg Dahl (Deutch), who from a young age is solely motivated to make enough money so as to never work again. She has several schemes in play, but it is not until she finds herself on the phone with a debt collector that she discovers the ultimate hustle. Trained by the malicious Wizz (Courtney) before starting her own debt collection business, the film brings to light the wild, wild west that is debt collection in the United States.
- Deutch is hilarious! This was my first time seeing her in anything, but I now know that the next project of her’s that comes along will be on the top of my to watch list. She brings a ton of life to the character, and makes us root for her even if the things she is doing aren’t necessarily the best things.
- Courtney plays a great foil in Wizz. Sometimes the misogyny goes over the top, but for the most part his rivalry with Peg is highlighted by the fact that he respects her skill at collecting on the debts.
Similar to films like The Wolf of Wall Street and The Big Short, this film made me aware of how totally screwed the American system of debt collection is. The film goes into detail explaining how people like Wizz get their hands on the ‘paper’ to then go and collect the debt. How these people are then able to recollect on the same debt, and as long as they don’t get caught, can continue this in perpetuity.
- Another great comedic thread throughout the movie is the depiction of Buffalo, New York and the people who live there. I am not sure how that comes across to the Buffalonians (the film did have a special screening at the Buffalo International Film Festival, so I am guessing they like it) but it was so funny. To their accents, to their love of the Bills, to their insatiable appetite for wings, the whole thing worked for the entirety of the movie for me. In particular, there is a climatic scene in the movie when all of the opposing forces are clashing in a bar. But they all pause what they are doing to watch the Bills try to score on a game winning drive!
- I compared this film earlier to two big, Oscar nominated films. I think that those two same films highlight cons for this particular movie.
- Starting with The Wolf of Wall Street, this movie follows almost the exact same beats. It makes for an enjoyable watch, but I already know where this train is going. It makes it predictable and I am not invested in most of the character arcs since I have seen this before. I have to wonder if the screenwriter watched WoWS before setting down to pen this, because it IS so similar. The big (and for me, nice) change was that there is no over the top nudity in this film. Not surprised because I doubt a female director would put that at the top of her list. But even so, Scorsese is a master at directing and Wexler is just starting out. I didn’t expect her to helm a film like he can. But with a script so similar, I am forced to compare and this is just not as good.
- Now moving onto the similarities it has with The Big Short. In this case, it has more to do with the gut punch as I call it. In The Big Short, I found myself laughing so hard throughout the movie. And then right towards the end of the film, when all this comedy was put into the real world (from which it was directly taken) it all stopped being funny. Realizing that these idiots on Wall Street had screwed the entire country with their disgusting gambling made me ill. It was one of the most profound gut punches I have ever had in a theater. Buffaloed tries to do the same thing by making us laugh at Deutch’s journey throughout the film, only to highlight at the very end of the movie the real problem with debt facing Americans. But it does this in a typed screen, and the emotional impact just isn’t there. Sure, I am now more aware of the problem but the gut punch was missed and I am less concerned as opposed to how when I walked out of The Big Short I went straight to Barnes & Noble to pick up the book to learn more.
- That leads me to the biggest overall con for this film, it tries too much to be like other great films in the genre and misses. Not because it wasn’t well directed or acted, but because it just wasn’t as good as those movies. I feel like it would have been better served trying to be different than following in the same paths.
In the end, I ended up giving this film a C+. I enjoyed it and I would watch it again, but I would rather watch the other films mentioned than this. I really do want to see more from Zoey Deutch because she was flat out awesome in this movie. I hope that you liked this review and let me know if you agree or disagree in the comments! And until next time, stay scary!