(director: Tanya Wexler; screenwriter: Brian Sacca; cinematographer: Guy Godfree; editor: Casey Brooks; music: Matthew Margeson; cast: Zoey Deutch (Peg Dahl), Judy Greer (Kathy), Jai Courtney (Wizz), Jermaine Fowler (Graham), Noah Reid (JJ), Lusia Strus (Frances), Lorrie Odom (Backer), Raymond Ablack (Prakash), Paulyne Wye (Jin), Nicholas Carrela (Mitch), Kate Moyer (Young Peg), Jayne Eastwood (Rhonda), James M. Connor (Clip), Brian Sacca (Sal); Runtime: 95; MPAA Rating: NR; producers: Mason Novick, John Finemore, Bannor Michael MacGregor, Jeffrey Katz, Zoey Deutch, Brian Sacca; Magnolia; 2019)

“Zooey takes to her role as fervently as some diners take to Buffalo chicken wings.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Tanya Wexler (“Hysteria”/”Finding North”) directs and the former actor Brian Sacca scripts this lite comedy that goes for some off-beat laughs but misses out on the big laughs. It’s a tale about a shifty and self-centered young woman, Peg Dahl (Zoey Deutch), dealing with some shady things going on among debt collectors in her hometown Buffalo community, a place she detests and is looking for a way to get away from as smoothly and quickly as possible to hit Wall Street.

Zooey takes to her role as fervently as some diners take to Buffalo chicken wings, and her zesty performance makes things that shouldn’t work nevertheless be digestible as entertainment.

Though Peg is a bright teenager and is accepted into an Ivy League college, she doesn’t attend because she can’t afford the hefty tuition. Her widowed mom (Judy Greer) runs a struggling hair salon out of their house, while her imprisoned con man dad died in the slammer and left the family with a crippling debt. She seems to have the same criminal DNA as her dad and in the opening scene has been arrested for attempting to pay for her tuition by selling counterfeit Buffalo Bill tickets.

Serving time for several years, the young woman upon her release is contacted by the debt-collection agency harassing her mother. This leads her to convince its crooked and sleazy head, Wizz (Jai Courtenay), to hire her. When he does she maneuvers to steal his business contacts and open a rival business. She then hires an assortment of colorful characters she has met on her journey to the dark side, and also begins a daring, in your face, romance with the prosecuting attorney (Jermaine Fowler) who previously sent her up the river.

Too many tiresome jokes about living in snowy Buffalo and a story that’s too slight to be more than diverting, leaves it as a missed opportunity to tell about the real modern-day problem it raises about how many contemporary Americans must deal with personal debt. It leaves us only with a chance to delight in the fast-talking heroine’s manic performance. But with a better script, Zooey might have done wonders with this story.

REVIEWED ON 2/21/2020  GRADE: B-