Monday Movie: Heavy, by David Bax

James Mangold is a terrifically talented filmmaker who, since his sophomore feature, 1997’s Cop Land, has been a trusted shepherd of marquee star vehicles, from biopics (Walk the Line) to superhero movies (The Wolverine and Logan) to flashy prestige studio fare like last year’s Ford v Ferrari. But his debut feature, 1995’s Heavy, hails from another camp altogether. With its focus on romantically shabby Americana, its hipster cast that includes Debbie Harry and Evan Dando and its score by none other than Thurston Moore, it couldn’t fit the mid-90s American indie mold any better. The difference between Heavy and most other movies of that type, though, is that it’s really, really good.

Pruitt Taylor Vince was already established as a recognizable and indispensable character actor (as he remains today) when he played his rare lead role as Victor, the cook at the upstate New York roadside diner and bar owned by his mother, Dolly (Shelley Winters). Dolly and longtime waitress Delores (Harry) don’t think much of him and he tends to feel the same way. But there’s a new light behind Victor’s forlorn eyes when Dolly hires a new waitress, Callie (Liv Tyler).

Look, I can already feel you turning up your nose at the prospect of one more indie about a sad boy who finds his dream girl. But Mangold is never so disingenuous as all that. In Heavy‘s many long, wordless stretches, formula and easy wish fulfillment are eschewed in favor of a deeper, more curious and ultimately more sympathetic emotional honesty.

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