Directors Bernardo Bertolucci with Stealing Beauty and now James Mangold with Heavy use Liv Tyler as a stunning young woman, who, plunked down among a group of ordinary people, changes their lives. In Heavy, the life changed is that of Victor (Pruitt Taylor Vince), a big, shy guy who works in a dingy diner run by his mother, played by Shelley Winters. Victor is practically mute with self-consciousness over his weight, and when he falls in love at first sight with Tyler’s Callie, his eyes begin to wiggle back and forth with ardor.
Mangold, who also wrote the script, has made a modern-day Marty, a kitchen-sink drama that doesn’t condescend to its characters. If the drama is occasionally slow and obvious, the actors aren’t: Vince is touchingly vulnerable as the heavy romantic, while Tyler demonstrates that she can do more than pout. Winters, these days most content going way over the top as Roseanne’s grandma on TV, is admirably restrained here. Mangold even gets a nuanced little performance out of Evan Dando, lead singer of the Lemonheads; he plays Callie’s sullen, guitar-strumming boyfriend. The director must have a knack for working with rock stars: Deborah Harry, once of Blondie, is best of all, playing a blowsy waitress who sees Callie as a cruel threat — to her livelihood, and to Victor’s fragile feelings. B+