Buck Alamo or (A Phantasmagorical Ballad) sounds like it will be trippy visuals and a paper thin story. It definitely has some seemingly drug infused moments. The plot is a deep and heartwarming story that will impress audiences, however. The film follows the titular character in what his doctor has told him are the final days of his life. The singing cowboy decides to go on a journey for forgiveness. Along the way, he may sing a song or two.
Sonny Carl Davis is great in the title role. It would be easy to go over the top as Buck. He can be played as a caricature of a cowboy or an overly dramatic old man who is on his last breath. Davis does neither of these things. Instead, the audience is presented with a well rounded character. Buck is a man in the waning days of his life who now wants to make amends. He is not the emotional roller coaster normally seen in these types of characters, though. Davis plays the role with a resigned joy. There is an infectious charm to Buck that makes him immediately likeable.
This is not to say Buck Alamo is a one person movie. The rest of the cast due are marvelous and help enhance the film. Bruce Dern is a fantastic narrator and the friends and family Buck meet along the way make his odyssey that much more fun to watch. Plus, there is the music. If you are going to have a movie about a singing cowboy, the songs better be good ones. That is definitely the case here. Buck Alamo is filled with tunes that audiences will be humming to themselves long after they have finished the film.
As great as the performances and music are, it is the story that pushes Buck Alamo over the top. The movie is heartfelt without being overbearing; funny without ever being silly. It has the perfect tone that delivers emotion while never make the audience roll their eyes. One of the best things a person can say about a movie is that it kept them smiling the entire time. This is one of those types of films.
There are some movies that are impossible to describe with words. People will (correctly) say things like “genre-bending” or “mind trip”. That is certainly the case with writer-director Ben Epstein’s directorial debut. Buck Alamo or (A Phantasmagorical Ballad) is a journey of self discovery and redemption that has elements of a tall tale with a musical twist. It is also a moving story that will stay with its audience.