Director: Vincent Gallo
Starring: Vincent Gallo, Christina Ricci, Ben Gazzara, Mickey Rourke, Rosanna Arquette, Jan-Michael Vincent, Anjelica Huston
Plot: Released from prision after serving five years for a crime he didn’t commit, Billy (Gallo) is keen to get his life in order starting with a visit to his parents. However to maintain the lie of his whereabouts all this time he kidnaps tap dancer Layla (Ricci) to play the role of his fiance.
Review: The debut film from the man of many talents Vincent Gallo and who here writes and directs the film, though if your to believe Gallo he was also responsible for the cinematography aswell.
Made on a shoestring budget of $ 1.5 milion this aggressive little indie film is not one for those of use who watch films for escapism or to generally not feel like garbage by the end credits for this is far from the happiest film as Gallo crafts a film full of hate and vitriol as Billy is introduced angry and carries it through for nearly the whole film as he angrily searches for a bathroom, argues with his parents and even gets angry at Layla for daring to actually have feelings for him. That being said though in Gallo’s world view everyone is seemingly just as angry.
A favourite of not only the critics where it appears frequently on the top 50 lists of independent cinema but also the majority of Letterboxd reviewers whose glowing reviews for this film made me wonder if I’d stumbled into a different movie as this was far from the most thrilling cinema going experience as instead I found myself feeling like I was locked in a filthy room with only a single Kleenex to clean up. Honestly I wasn’t sure what there was to enjoy about a film were for the first hour it just seemed to be a stream of people determined to let each other know just how much they hated each other.
Of course there have been other equally grim movies such as “Requiem for a Dream” and “Irreversable” that dare I say I’ve enjoyed, but with those it was clear that there was a destination they were heading towards and that it wasn’t just some demented experiment in endurance that the director was seemingly trying to craft. It’s here of course that I find the biggest question mark about the film in that its unclear what Gallo is actually trying to achieve here other than fuelling his own ego as throughout Gallo ensures that he constantly the focus of the film while the now legendary fallout from the film which saw Gallo claiming that he carried Ricci while refering to her as being a “Puppet”, he also blamed Anjelica Huston for the film being turned down by the Cannes film festival.
As a lead character Billy makes this far from the easiest experience to get through as there is no one that he won’t pick an argument with or shout abuse at and while Gallo might with painful tedium strip aware these layers of aggressive armour as the reasons are revealed from the abusive family home which is layed on thick for if you couldn’t tell by the general bitterness around the family table Gallo throws in a flashback to Billy’s father killing his puppy when he didn’t clean up after it. We also flashback to the events surrounding his imprisonments was he’s interrogated by his bookie Mickey Rourke whose surprise appearance here was one of the spattering of high points scattered throughout the film.
Ricci’s Layla makes an interesting counterpart to Billy as represents the light in this world, even though her lack of concern for her situation let alone willingness to go along with Billy’s plan remained a sticking point for myself especially when Billy is just so continually aggressive towards her only to suddenly fall for her in a moment of sickening smaltz because of course she’s the only one who can save him from his own darkness. Still despite the cliché path for her character here Ricci still manages to craft several moments throughout the film such as a spontaneous tap dance at the bowling alley. But with her doe eyes and general manic-pixie-dream girl aura around her its hard to not like her character
While the film might be a slog to get through it does however incorporate some interesting visual ideas into its cinematography to hold your attention with the best of these coming at the finale were we get to enjoy freeze frame gunshot wounds as the camera moves freely around the frozen figures. For all the flashy camera work though, it often feels like more of a distraction for the general unpleasent tone throughout this film.
Sure this fans might have its fans but like its leading man this was one film whose appeal was lost on me.