Heavy (Mangold, 1995)

It’s great to finally see where James Mangold began his career. The man behind such duds as Identity, gems like Cop Land, and the upcoming 3:10 To Yuma remake has always struck me as an interesting filmmaker, a humanist at heart working in an industry which praises artificiality. Heavy, his critically acclaimed debut, came about amidst the American Indy scene at it’s height, and it’s to Mangold’s credit this small, subtle beauty made such an impact in the company of Tarantino, et. al. Mangold’s direction is first rate, positioning his camera as Ozu would (the great David Bordwell made this great observation on his blog), to enable the characters maximum space to move around freely, letting nuance, patterns, and habits express more about story than dialogue. Pruitt Taylor Vince, who plays Victor, the overweight chef of Mangold’s primary diner locale, acts more with his facial expressions than words, creating a character overwhelmed by life’s small stresses which rest heavy on his shoulders, unwilling to yield. Mangold’s film deals with Victor’s growth as a singular person, not defined by his kind but needy mother (Shelly Winters) or his coworkers (played by Liv Tyler and Deborah Harry), and his attempts to gain something fulfilling out of life. Made on a miniscule budget, Mangold favors substance over flash, silence over banter, and most importantly kindness over brutality. Throughout Heavy, Victor tries to save the people in his life from their own downfall, realizing in the process he has to save himself first. A great example of an American indy.

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