1996, NR, 105 min. Directed by James Mangold. Starring Pruitt Taylor Vince, Shelley Winters, Liv Tyler, Deborah Harry, Evan Dando, Joe Grifasi.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Sept. 27, 1996
Although James Mangold's Heavy was made in 1994, well before Bernardo Bertolucci's recent Stealing Beauty, it's remarkable how both directors have used ingenue Liv Tyler to such similar effect. In both films, she is the fresh, young spark that quickens the torpor in an otherwise staid social structure. From the opening scene of Heavy in which Callie (Tyler) comes to work at Pete and Dolly's tavern and pizza parlor in the Hudson Valley of upstate New York, no one would predict the effect her presence will have on the tavern regulars and how she, herself, will be forever touched by her experiences there. Heavy is a movie that expresses itself through images and silences. Here, the heaviness hangs in the air, it saturates the space between people and drapes its stubborn heft over all the many things unsaid. Victor (Vince) the tavern's pizza chef, is also heavy, and it's through the eyes of this shy, overweight mama's boy that we view much of this movie and see how Callie's mere presence brings a lightness to his demeanor. The tavern's other habitués include its owner (and Vincent's mom) Dolly (Winters); longtime waitress Delores (Harry), whose sullen exterior is clearly unnerved by Callie's youth; and barfly Leo (Grifasi), who carries an unrequited torch for the longtime waitress Delores. The fragile social structure begins to fray when Dolly is hospitalized with heart trouble and Callie decides to stay on at the tavern despite the objections of her self-absorbed, musician boyfriend (Dando). Yet everything that occurs in Heavy occurs within the space of a sidelong glance or an unspoken resentment. The movie demands to be watched and rewards that attention handsomely, though at times Heavy seems a little too introverted for its own good. The performances are all exquisitely drawn portraits, restrained (even Shelley Winters) and gentle. Piercing the silence is the film's original score by Thurston Moore, and the constant background jukebox tunes feature the likes of Butch Hancock, Candye Kane, Freedy Johnston, and Peter Case. Director Mangold won the Grand Jury Prize for best direction at the 1995 Sundance Film Festival. Currently, he is shooting CopLand, the much-ballyhooed drama starring Sylvester Stallone, Robert De Niro, and Harvey Keitel.