If you’re going through Girls withdrawal (it’s been almost a month since the season ended), the Tribeca Film Festival has just the methadone you’re looking for. Not only do a couple of the show’s producers appear in Very Semi-Serious and Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead (Bruce Eric Kaplan is also a New Yorker cartoonist and Judd Apatow is a National Lampoon fan) but Adam Driver and Zosia Mamet are the leads in Hungry Hearts and Bleeding Heart, respectively. Both are dark psychological thrillers in which the characters get caught up with a deeply disturbed romantic partner and run to their parents for help. Spoiler alert: neither of these films end well. But are either of them heart-worthy?
This ain’t no Springsteen song: the baby that Jude (Driver) has with Mina (Alba Rohrwacher) is very hungry indeed. Not only has his high-strung, low-calorie mom handed down her eating disorder by imposing a strict vegan diet, but she won’t even take the kid to a doctor when he’s been running a fever for two weeks. And she won’t let him out of the house, since she considers NYC a “noisy, stinking toxic cloud.” (Well, we can’t argue with that.) The home-birthing scene here isn’t quite as batshit as the one in the Girls finale, but it’s clear that Mina’s anti-vaxxer ways may end up killing her child if Jude doesn’t get him to a McDonald’s stat. As the baby becomes dangerously malnourished, he ends up feeding the kid meat wads behind his wife’s back, and Mina in turn secretly doses him with a slimming elixir. As you can imagine, this doesn’t make for a happy couple. “Are you consciously trying to kill our son?” is not something you want to have to yell during the honeymoon period, and Jude eventually enlists his own mom to help get his son to safety.
Verdict: Hungry Hearts gets off to an intriguing start, establishing a wistful yet ominous mood for what promises to be an intimate exploration of a dysfunctional relationship a la Blue Valentine. But it never moves beyond the slow-going parental tug-of-war over the child’s health. If Mina were less of a monster (she regards her husband as little more than a sperm donor), we might be able to feel some sympathy for her point of view, but as it is you’ll probably spend this whole movie dying for a hamburger.
May (Jessica Biel) is blindly focused on her boyfriend and the yoga business they’re building together until her long-lost biological sister Shiva (Zosia Mamet) comes into her life. At first Shiva, a jaded call girl who sports eyeliner and a leather jacket, seems like the anti-Shosh. But (surprise!) she’s actually a love-starved romantic who’s being manipulated into sex work by her abusive, maniacally controlling boyfriend/pimp, Cody (Joe Anderson). Fearing for Shiva’s life, May gives her a loan and a place to stay. May’s boyfriend (Edi Gathegi) and her mom (Kate Burton) think she’s being naïve, but May is eager for a change of direction and a friend who understands her better than the aforementioned judgmental types. She shrugs off their concerns, but a couple of things make her wonder if she really is being conned. What follows is a cat and mouse game as May tries to convince Shiva to run, don’t walk away from her boyfriend and accept love from someone other than a dude.
Verdict: Mamet lends Shiva enough aloofness that we spend most of the film wondering whether she’s a damsel in distress or a femme fatale. But the abusive boyfriend is just a little over-the-top (intimidating May by quoting the inventor of the atom bomb? really?), and any other sense of subtlety goes out the window when May saves Shiva from the clutches of a client and tells the creep, “Namaste, motherfucker.” (Er, when did the normie yoga teacher become Arnold Schwarzenegger?) From then on, it’s the usual Hollywood gunplay and, yes, someone actually does end up with a bleeding heart.