James’s review published on Letterboxd:
A startlingly original debut from Vincent Gallo, who takes the auteur approach of writing, producing, scoring, directing and starring.
Shot on reversal film and with a slightly washed out appearance, it seems out of place. Like a lost gem of seventies independent cinema it has the raw, rough around the edges style of Cassavetes (it even stars Ben Gazzara) or early Scorsese and the framing often bears some resemblance to Ozu, who is slyly name-dropped on a car number plate. Despite these visual comparisons it carves out a very unique and offbeat narrative that combines well orchestrated comedic moments with visceral displays of inner anguish.
I really wasn't sure where it would go with this incredibly obnoxious, narcissistic and downright unpleasant central character, however through meeting his parents we gradually begin to see how he became this way, their selfishness and complete lack of affection for their son produces some laughs but is ultimately the cause of inner hate and social ineptitude. We also begin to see this repressed and deeply conflicted side of him revealed through the young Layla, played brilliantly by Christina Ricci who is equally as damaged and takes an interest in him.
Billy's transformation by the end of the film is such that he becomes an entirely different persona and is totally believable from the even pacing and nuanced performances. I'm not sure I love it yet but I certainly feel like coming back to it at a later date.