During production on “Buddy,” her warts-and-all bio of former Providence, R.I. mayor Vincent A. “Buddy” Cianci, filmmaker Cherry Arnold reportedly had exclusive inside access to the colorful and controversial politico. But her unremarkably competent pic still plays like a technically proficient cable-news portrait. Despite its modest B.O. success during limited theatrical play in Boston and Rhode Island, ticketbuyers elsewhere likely will remain immune to its minor charms. Homevid and pubcast exposure may increase its constituency.
Cianci, who currently is serving time in federal prison after a 2002 conspiracy conviction, comes across as the sort self-contradictory figure all too common amid the rough and tumble of U.S. urban governance. A robustly charismatic dynamo first elected in 1974 as “The Anti-Corruption Candidate,” he spent decades at the forefront of Providence’s near-miraculous civic and cultural renaissance. Public and private scandals (including charges of kickbacks and corruption, and a suspended sentence for assaulting his ex-wife’s lover) apparently have done little to diminish his enduing appeal to many loyal supporters. “Buddy” offers a fair and balanced account of its subject, but that’s not quite enough to bring this enigmatic figure into sharper focus.