(Hulu/VOD) I love fictional (emphasis on fictional) works about con-artists, smooth talkers, grifters — however you want to name ‘em, I’ll line up to watch a work about ‘em.
BUFFALOED falls into the genre of ‘grifters with a heart of gold’ that I like, as opposed to the grifters that took over film around the late 80s. (I blame WALL STREET.) It features Zoey Deutch (who keeps flying under the rader, but she’s fantastic in FLOWER) as Peg, a lower class teenager living in Buffalo, NY whose father died of a heart attack when she was young, leaving her with her brother (SCHITT’S CREEK’s Noah Reid) and her mother, played by Judy Greer. Peg is consumed with having enough money to never have to worry about finances ever again and, as a youth, runs a few mostly-harmless small scams like reselling buffalo wings and trafficking loosies in her high school parking lot.
Peg gets accepted into her first college pick, but her mom informs her that they don’t have enough money to actually send her, so she upgrades her grifting and starts selling counterfeit Bills football tickets, which eventually lands her in jail before she has a chance to finish high school.
Several years and many lawyer bills later, she gets out and gets a phone call from a debt scammer (yes, we’ve culturally moved along from the penny stocks of say, BOILER ROOM (2000) to debt collection) and she sees an opportunity to wipe out her owed ‘cash’ as a debt collector and she leaps at it, albeit on her own terms.
The film is brash and brisk: the script — via Brian Sacca — is tighter than a drum, and director Tanya Wexler gives it proper verve. If there’s one fault, it’s that the portrayal of the town and characters occasionally become more cartoonish than necessary but, otherwise, it’s a fun, well-crafted, and well-disguised screed against the state of consumer debt in America.