The filmmakers of Buffaloed believe more isn’t enough. It’s a movie that seems to be shouting and swearing for the audience’s enjoyment but, because there’s so much of it, viewers can’t help but zone out until the actors wind back down. A detrimental criticism considering the film’s underdog story requires our full attention.
Buffaloed tracks the slapdash career of Peg Dahl as she learns the ropes of debt-collecting after swinging to and from several hustles, eventually parting ways with a slimy job and creating her own would-be empire. Peg is played very well by Zoey Deutch, who continues to prove her willingness to go after a challenge. Deutch (who also co-produced the film) interprets Peg’s hutzpah as anxiety. While Peg’s motivations to make as much money as possible are grey and murky due to Brian Sacca’s underwritten screenplay, Deutch’s performance hints that this financial obsession may be an addiction Peg will never be able to kick. When she branches out on her own, Peg is a leader who can inspire her team of amateur collectors during bleak times, but the audience can see there isn’t much confidence behind Peg’s charisma. Deutch perfectly channels this internal struggle as she picks up on her character’s nuances.
Unfortunately, Tanya Wexler’s direction isn’t nuanced at all. She only seems interested in the outrageous details of this story, like funny accents, cartoony violence, and heated confrontations that combine both. I was reminded of Fargo and that film’s cast of colourful characters. However, those jokes were well earned because the Coen brothers were aware of the deeper humour that existed behind their dark comedy’s quirkiness. That same hidden humour exists somewhere in Buffaloed, but Wexler hasn’t found it.
Buffaloed still works as an empowering tale about a woman who turns a primarily male-dominated industry on its ear yet continues to meet scrutiny and sexism on a daily basis. But otherwise, Buffaloed doesn’t quite roam.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie