The film begins with scenes of a burlesque show at an open love party. Music and burlesque dancers seduce the patrons. While distracted by the elaborate and decadent food offerings, Jack becomes increasingly uncomfortable as his wife, Ruby, flirts and later goes home with Rex, a non-binary burlesque performer. While Jack hesitantly agreed to an “open marriage” on this night as a birthday gift to his wife, he nonetheless feels emasculated. This is the first power shift away from Jack, the classic male, “master of the universe,” weakening his control and providing the audience with a variant perception inconsistent with the traditional marital paradigm.
Jack, sad and alone, leaves the party after having not found a match. Outside the party, Jack is pleasantly surprised to see Tanya, a beautiful young womxn. Tanya, who has been working at the party as a side hustle, is hungry. Jack convinces Tanya to come over to his apartment. In a tender moment, they light Hanukkah candles together and bond over their shared Jewish backgrounds. Tanya, a Jewish Russian refugee, is rediscovering her roots. Aware of Jack’s wealth, Tanya hopes he will fund her performing arts non-profit and become her sugar daddy. Jack is open to the idea. When the story takes a turn, shifting the power dynamic from the stereotypical “sugar daddy” story, the audience is teased with a deeper, more complex relationship between Jack and Tanya.
Jack offers Tanya an “Omakase berry” – the best strawberry in the world. What follows is a fantasy scene in the classic “male gaze” style. The “strawberry fantasy” is filmed in a sensual, erotic style depicting Tanya licking juicy strawberries and feeding Jack, lying back in Tanya’s lap in a passive/submissive position – zabaglione sauce dripping from the strawberries and Tanya’s mouth on Jack’s face, reminiscent of pornography. This powerful reversal of the historic trope during this fantasy scene is abruptly interrupted when Tanya says, “do you still fuck your wife?” – this question jolts Jack out of his daydream as he confronts the truth that he rarely makes love with his wife. Tanya then, innocently, strikes a second blow by asking, “does she like it?” In a moment of recognition, Jack is unclear as to whether or not he has been a good sexual partner to his wife. Tanya, again, emasculates Jack while casually devouring strawberries.
This scene is the crescendo in short. While seemingly “having it all,” Jack is faced with the stark reality that he may have been an inadequate partner to his wife. In a moment of compassion and potential opportunity, Tanya offers to “cuddle” with Jack, providing him with the intimacy he craves. The film concludes with a montage of Jack and Tanya cuddling and Ruby and Rex sensually kissing and caressing in a bathtub, presumably before or after sex.
Stacey Maltin – Director
Margarita Zhitnikova – Writer & Producer
Jackie Schwartz – Producer
Eden Martinez – Producer
Jeffrey Weber – Producer
Jeffrey Weber – “Jack”
Margarita Zhitnikova – “Tanya”
Jordan Bayne – “Ruby”
Sherill-Marie Henriquez – “Rex”
Sibyl Santiago – “Anne”
Jenilyn Rodriguez – “Corey”
Jay DeYonker – “Reese”
Daniel Hidalgo Alonso – “Brick”
Appetite and desire are often used interchangeably. Food metaphors are deeply embedded into the language of sex. But having an “appetite” for something can be fleeting. One minute you crave it, the next you don’t. This is where our lead character, Jack, begins his journey – hoping that his wife Ruby’s new hunger for sex outside their marriage will dissipate before she ever gets a chance to taste. Our opening scene illuminates a new world of “flexible love” where people actively meet up to find new entanglements for “whatever.” Each womxn at this party is more intimidating to Jack than the last. The womxn are confident, sensual, embracing their own sexuality and their own desires, which is not something Jack can say for himself. We don’t often see men filmed like this in cinema, where each shot is designed to make him feel at a distinct loss of control. While he’s the character we’re following, the power isn’t his.
When Jack returns to his apartment with Tanya, an asexual vegan, the lighting shifts drastically from the erotic reds and purples of the party to the cool blues and oranges of an intimate, non-sexual encounter; this is where we flip the script on the trope that it’s womxn who stop wanting sex in marriages while their husbands fantasize about younger options. When faced with a night alone with a beautiful young womxn, all Jack really wants is a connection (and maybe somebody to eat strawberries with).
When confronted with the reality of our own appetites, we don’t always get what we want, but sometimes we get what we need.
Stacey is a provocative filmmaker whose work has screened in film festivals around the world. She was recently nominated for Best Director at several film festivals for her short film Jones, and she won Best Dramatic Short for her short film Baggage. She wrote, produced, and starred in her first feature film, “Landing Up” through her production company Bold Compass Films. It premiered at Dances With Films in Los Angeles, and she picked up the Best Actress and Best Feature nominations. Her short film “Stronger Together” was recently acquired by Shoreline Entertainment after having its world premiere at NewFest. Her short film “Head” is streaming on REVRY, and the feature film version of HEAD was an Outfest Screenwriting Lab finalist. Her work has further screened at Cinequest Film Festival, Rotterdam International Film Festival, Flicker’s Rhode Island, ITVfest, and more. The script she penned, “The Other Side,” was selected by the screenwriting website THE BLACKLIST as a Top 10 Finalist in the Hasty Pudding Fellowship for a screenwriter focusing on satire and social commentary. That script was further selected to be a part of the Black List Table Reads series and was produced as a podcast starring Darren Criss, Eddie Kaye Thomas, and Jerry Adler.
She is currently creating a new provocative series called Linked, which premiered at Academy Award Qualifying film festival Cinequest in 2019.
She is the co-founder of the production company Besties Make Movies with close collaborator Margarita Zhitnikova.