When Exploring Your Cravings Leaves Your “Appetite” Wanting More
Appetite, a short film directed by Stacey Maltin, takes a brief, yet deep glance at a married couple exploring an open relationship. Rich warm hues, lush fabrics, and seductive close-ups, perfectly set the scene for the first half of this short’s “Flex Love” club. Maltin craftily creates the environment, using vibrant colors, cuts, and sounds to build the space, turning it completely visceral. One can almost feel the tickle of a burlesque feather and smell the tacked-on body glitter. For the second half of the short, set in the home of the protagonist, Maltin highlights the soft daylight hours creeping in with cool blue hues, juxtaposing the bold sensual red club scene. Maltin creates a sense of serenity and tranquility, permitting the characters to build off of the permeating atmosphere — the club offers overt sexuality while the apartment offers intimacy.
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Protagonist Jack, played by Jeffrey Weber, exudes stiff, out-of-place, business-man vibes, almost prompting the viewer to yell, “get the hell out of the ‘Flex Love’ club.” His discomfort and desperation is palpable, pulling his wife aside at the club to remind her that they’ve forgotten to light the Hanukkah candles. Jack’s wife Ruby, played by Jordan Bayne, uses her side-eyes and coy smiles — in stark contrast with Weber’s tight-lipped aversion — to seek her birthday present: a person she can go home with.
Viewers are compelled to feel a pang in their hearts as they watch the disappointment draped on Jack’s shoulder: his wife decidedly leaving with another person. Just then, a playful young character named Tanya, played by Margarita Zhitnikova, takes the role the spectators wish they could: attempting to give solace to this character. Zhitnikova captivates in a short, pink wig, seamlessly pulling the viewers into the folly: we become compelled to entertain the downtrodden protagonist as well, but are also pushed away. Zhitnikova presents Tanya as honest, if not blunt, calling Jack “Wall Street” and a “boomer.” She later follows Jack nonchalantly to his home where they discuss family, art, and relationships, but not before asking if he is a serial killer.
The story, written by Margarita Zhitnikova, takes us through the journey of this couple. With acute attention to detail, the characters quickly offer backstories and establish themselves as individuals. The short, albeit only 12-minutes, gently touches on themes of comfort, control, and power within relationships. By not inundating the watcher with performative kitsch, we are able to explore the deeper positions and roles within these bonds. At one point during the second half of the short, Jack presents Tanya with one of his prized Omakase strawberries. The offering is far more intimate and personal than any of the burlesque dancers or any of the financing Tanya’s character seems to be after for her creative endeavors. This consensually enjoyed snack provides both characters the opportunity to mutually build upon their intimacy without participating in any sexual activity. Matlin brings us back to just this: allowing us to glimpse into the fantasy growing in Jack’s mind, we find Tanya oozing of sexuality surrounded by more of his prized strawberries. When Tanya posits, “Am I taking advantage of you?” we start to question the relationship dynamics and what comfort, control, and power can truly mean. Appetite probes the parameters of our defined sense of intimacy and relationships, illustrating how our appetite (pun intended) and hunger for intimacy lays on a spectrum meant to be explored by individuals and multifaceted groupings alike.