Thursday, January 25, 2007

Buddy Boy (2000)

Buddy Boy is one dark, twisted and intriguing film by first-time director Mark Hanlon that takes you along in the crumbling life of a lonely voyeur who begins seeing strange things that may or may not be real...

Francis lives in a derelict apartment, caring for his invalid and alcoholic mother, Sal. Francis is an awkward, socially inept, stuttering man-child who was raised under the strict dogmas of the Catholic Church. When he is not being hounded by his mother or working at a small convenience store developing photographs, he is busy spying on his comely neighbor who lives in the apartment across the way. Francis and this neighbor, Gloria, meet by chance one night when he saves her from a mugger. He is suspicious when she expresses genuine interest in him, but he soon comes around and they enter into a relationship. Francis' damaged psyche begins to get the better of him, though. He continues to spy on Gloria out of paranoia, and begins to see some strange things. Gloria is a strict vegan, but he sees her eating huge chunks of raw meat. He also notices different men that come to her apartment - none of whom ever leave again. Francis is also having problems at his job. He begins noticing a sad, abused-looking little girl in photographs he develops, the same girl he has seen on the back of a milk carton. These visions, coupled with Francis' crumbling faith, childhood traumas and family secrets cause him to slowly lose grip on reality...unless the horrors he has seen are actually real...

Buddy Boy bears a strong resemblance to Polanski's films The Tenant and Rosemary's Baby, as well as Hitchcock's Rear Window. Like these classic films, Buddy Boy deals with facades people put up to separate themselves from their private lives vs. their public lives. From Francis' mother Sal, who claims to be a good Catholic woman yet boozes it up with the handyman, to Gloria, who claims that "meat is murder," yet is seen eating some bloody cuts of steak, things aren't always what they appear to be. In Francis' world, hypocrisy runs rampant. He hears people sprouting off dogmas - Sal with Catholicism and Gloria with her vegan beliefs - but sees them doing things that go completely against their beliefs. He in turn, has done everything he can to follow the dogmas of Catholicism (even going to confession when he sins) but feels God continues to punish him with his crappy life. The film also deals with the descent into obsession and viewers, we are voyeurs along with Francis, never knowing what is real or fake and his paranoia becomes our own.

Aiden Gillen does a superb job as the stumbling, fumbling Francis, making the audience both wary of and sympathetic toward the character. Bringing real comic relief to an otherwise dark film is Susan Tyrrell (I best remember her as Ramona Ricketts from Cry-Baby) as Sal. Emmanuelle Seigner brings a patience and sophistication to her role as Gloria that balances out Gillen's unstable Francis.

While the story and characters are satisfying, the pacing is sometimes off, causing the film to bog down in several places. There is a strong emphasis on repetitiveness throughout the film which drags down the proceedings and makes for an anticlimactic ending. The ambiguous ending makes you think, which is a refreshing shocker considering how many American horror films hold your hand the whole way through.

Though writer/director Mark Hanlon does not have the skill of either Polanski or Hitchcock (yet - I'm anxious to see what he'll do next) Buddy Boy grabbed my attention from the beginning, even though it is a bit of a slow start. Its dark, bleak atmosphere sinks in as the film progressives, like a spreading stain on the pavement that will never come out.

Order it on Amazon!

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