Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Diane Bell explores women, class and violence in her sophomore effort, BLEEDING HEART

TrustMovies must admit that watching BLEEDING HEART, a new film written and directed by Diane Bell, can often seem like a stretch. Overall though, this is the kind of stretch that's good for you -- rather like that of the palm tree able to bend with the wind instead of breaking in two. Also, it stars two good actresses, one of whom, Jessica Biel, I go out of my way to see in just about anything she does. Ms Biel, along with Jake Gyllenhaal, even saved David O. Russell's Nailed (aka Accidental Love) from total obscurity.

Filmmaker Bell, shown at left, has tackled a disturbing set of subjects -- including feminism, class, violence; parentage, prostitution and yoga; drugs, friendship and love -- and then created a scenario in which all these come into play. If this occasionally makes for a few more contrivances and coincidences than we might wish, the movie still manages to work well enough to get us to its crackling and seemingly inevitable finale. In addition to the unusual situation Ms Bell has set up and the pretty decent dialog she's put in the mouths of her cast, it's that cast itself that does the movie proud, helping carry the film to fruition, while forcing us to consider all the problematic possibilities along the way. Once set in motion, and given the characters on view, the plot here can pretty much go only in one direction.

Early on in Bleeding Heart, one of our two heroines, May, played by Biel (above), hones in on the other one, Shiva, played by Zosia Mamet (below). We soon learn why, and the reason will probably prove either the deal-breaker or the deal-maker for most viewers. It becomes, in any case, the force that drives May onwards, pushing through Shiva's attempts to stall or derail it,

and leading to further and further confrontations with Shiva's pimp boyfriend (well-played with a smart combination of intelligence, style and ferocity by Joe Anderson), below, left). The only important remaining cast members include Kate Burton (as May's cold, adopted mom), Edi Gathegi (as May's business partner/boyfriend) and Harry Hamlin as a wealthy "john."  Each is first-rate, offering a performance that adds luster to the proceedings.

Finally it is Ms Bell's concept and execution that, despite its occasional overly-schematic feel, brings the movie home. It is bracing to see a film that attempts to meld feminism, class and violence with nature and nurture. And Biel and Mamet make a fine pair of protagonists: bouncing off each other believably and with the necessary finesse, offering up character arcs that move in opposite directions, bringing these two very different women together in an inseparable way.

Bleeding Heart (nicely ironic title, that!) -- from Gravitas Ventures and running a swift 80 minutes -- after being available On-Demand and Digitally since early November, opens in a very limited theatrical run this Friday, on the date, at the theaters, and in the cities shown below.

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