Melissa Leo proves again why she's one of America's finest actors with a shimmering, delicate performance as a middle-aged divorcee who falls for a younger man in Bottled Up, a micro-budget indie dramedy costarring Josh Hamilton (American Horror Story) and Marin Ireland (Homeland).
The second feature from writer-director Enid Zentelis (Evergreen), Bottled Up opens with an idyllic image: a postcard-perfect aerial shot of a gorgeous, verdant small town on the banks of the Saranac River in upstate New York.
Zoom in and life is far less pretty. Certainly messier.
Leo plays Fay, an eccentric introvert (bangs forever covering her eyes, the rest of her wild hair rising up in a rocket of a bun atop her head) who makes a meager paycheck as the manager of a mailbox store that also sells rotisserie chicken and doughnuts - and offers body piercings.
Fay has carved out a small life for herself, having withdrawn to a small world she can control after one too many heartbreaks. She prefers spending time with the dozens of plants that fill up her living room than with people.
Except, that is, for her freeloading daughter and housemate Sylvie (Ireland). Convinced she was a bad mother when Sylvie was young, Fay will do anything to appease the twentysomething girl's every absurd whim. She even turns a blind eye to Sylvie's Vicodin addiction, even faking injuries so she can score prescriptions for the girl.
The two women's textbook addict-codependent relationship is tested with the arrival of Becket (Hamilton), a nebbish health-food store clerk and rabid enviro-activist who rents a room in their house.
Awkward, embarrassing, and hilarious scenes follow as Becket tries desperately to court Fay while the older woman does everything she can to divert his attention to Sylvie. (Leo has this way of showing Fay's self-abnegation by making her entire body seem to collapse or fold in on itself.)
Bottled Up makes no pretense at profundity. A small, intimate, bittersweet, and wonderfully crafted love story, it may very well add a spring to your step as you exit the theater.
Bottled Up *** (out of four stars)
Directed by Enid Zentelis. With Melissa Leo, Josh Hamilton, Marin Ireland. Distributed by Olympus Pictures.
Running time: 1 hour, 21 mins.
Parent's guide: R (profanity, some sexuality, drug use)
Playing at: Montgomeryville Stadium 12