Saturday, May 11, 2019

Tribeca with Abe: Buffaloed

I’ve had the pleasure this year of screening a number of selections from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, which ran April 24th – May 5th.

Directed by Tanya Wexler
Spotlight Narrative

Great ideas can be born with the best of intentions, and it’s often hard to predict just where they’ll lead. When shortcuts to success and quicker routes to the top present themselves, those who might have preferred an honest path can be tempted to compromise their integrity and do what’s easiest. Declaring a desire to escape what’s perceived as a stifling prison can also motivate someone to do what they feel will be simplest and most efficient. Rarely do such schemes pan out, but the road to that point is usually considerably more entertaining and engaging with more obstacles and bumps along the way.

Peg Dahl (Zoey Deutch) lives in Buffalo and can’t stand it. She has always been resourceful, finding ways to make money through both honest and dishonest means which often get her into trouble. When a college acceptance makes her dreams of getting out of Buffalo seem possible, she turns to an unexpected career path to get rich quick. Sick of dealing with the constant calls that come in to collect on the debt that her mother Kathy (Judy Greer) owes, she realizes her skill at being on the other end of the phone. Initially working for a slimy operator (Jai Courtenay), Peg soon decides that she can open up and run her own shop.

This film is reminiscent of a number of other recent cinematic stories featuring high-stakes concepts that quickly got wild and out of hand. The entrepreneurial and management style that Peg employs bears some similarities to those portrayed in “Molly’s Game” and “Joy,” with the energy of “The Big Short” and “The Wolf of Wall Street” to demonstrate just how exponentially it can all spiral. That combination proves moderately successful, offering an over-the-top plot that serves as a fun watch even if it takes more than a few liberties which hamper its ability to be taken seriously.

Deutch, who delivered a great performance in “Flower,” is completely on and excitable as the passionate, devious, and clever Peg, and she is the best reason to see this film. Greer is always great, while Courtenay leans heavily into villainous exaggeration. This film doesn’t mind being rambunctious and following its ideas as far as its characters will take them. Its opening title card defines its title’s multiple meanings, referencing its setting, the animal, and lesser-used verb form, indicating a perfectly worthwhile rollercoaster ride ahead.


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