Runtime: 95 minutes
Director: Tanya Wexler
Writer: Brian Sacca
Stars: Zoey Deutch, Jai Courtney, Judy Greer, Jermaine Fowler, Noah Reid
By Morgan Roberts
“Buffaloed” (2020) is a tricky beast to categorize. It’s a dark comedy with some truly stark social commentary about debt in America and socioeconomics. Peg Dahl (Zoey Deutch) is a hustler. She always has some form of income stream to try to get her way out of poverty in Buffalo, NY. After her father’s death, her family are plagued by debt-collection calls. Her mother (Judy Greer) is resigned to this way of life, but Peg is not.
Peg is crass, determined, smart, cunning. She will rope her brother (Noah Reid) into her endeavours. But it is her hustle that gets her time behind bars. Once out of the clinker, Peg runs into the same issues as most re-entering: employment. Peg finds herself in debt thanks to legal fees and the scam she ran. She finds herself being called by a collector and smooth talks her way into becoming a debt collector herself for a local professional hustler, Wizz (Jai Courtney).
“Buffaloed” is smart, just like our main character. It is equal parts funny and depressing. Much like any grifting film, the dialogue is fast, the plot moves quickly, and the stakes continue to grow until you don’t know how any of it is going to be resolved.
“Deutch’s performance is a no-holds-bar tour-de-force. She goes in deep with each emotion: rage, elation, guilt.”
But the true strength in “Buffaloed” lies with Deutch’s performance. Peg is arrogant, overly confident, conceded, but is also loyal, determined, and compassionate. It is hard to balance all of that in a character, let alone the character guiding us through the story, but Deutch manages to encapsulate all of Peg in an endearing, authentic manner.
Deutch’s performance is a no-holds-bar tour-de-force. She goes in deep with each emotion: rage, elation, guilt. We really focus on having “likeable” female characters. Peg is not always likeable. She makes poor decisions like everyone else does. Deutch neither condones nor condemns these moments. But she uses those moments to deepen Peg’s shame and guilt and fight and kindness and love. Deutch is a dynamic performer and this film showcases her talent.
“Buffaloed” has some Rust Belt humour. And if you’re not from the Buffalo area, it doesn’t quite hit the same way as I’m sure it would if you grew up and/or live there. (Much like “South Park” is way different for me since I grew up in Colorado.) I also wish we had a little more time with some of our characters and their relationships. But those are minor issues to have in a film.
Between Deutch’s performance and the overarching subject matter at hand, “Buffaloed” really resonates with you. It is troubling to see how much It sticks around, much like the $13 trillion in debt Americans have.
“Buffaloed” is available now on VOD.