Bottled Up: Tribeca Review

Despite a sensitive lead performance, this tonally confused indie fails to ring true.

Melissa Leo stars in this upstate New York dramedy about a mother coping with her daughter's addiction.

It’s hard to know what to make of Bottled Up, Eniz Zentelis tonally confused comedy/drama about a mother coping with her grown daughter’s addiction to prescription drugs. While this low-budget effort seems to have its heart in the right place and features a sensitive, moving performance by Oscar winner Melissa Leo, it ultimately feels like a compendium of bizarre character quirks adding up to a barely coherent whole.

Set in upstate New York, the story involves the complex relationship that develops among Fay (Leo), her daughter Sylvie (Marin Ireland) and Becket (Josh Hamilton), the ardent environmentalist/health fanatic who becomes their housemate. As is immediately made clear, the physically and emotionally fragile Sylvie is hopelessly addicted to pills as a result of a past back injury. Her mother seems to be her enabler, even pretending to have a wrenched shoulder so a new doctor will supply a fresh prescription. Yet at the same time, she threatens the local drug dealer feeding her daughter’s habit.

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When Fay meets the friendly Becket when he rhapsodizes about the joys of eating seaweed at the health food store in which he works, she decides that he may be the answer to Sylvie’s problems and impulsively answers his query about a room for rent. But it soon becomes apparent that he’s more interested in her than her daughter, and she finds herself gradually loosening her emotional defenses.

Director/screenwriter Zentelis has infused the proceedings with touches of bizarre, off-kilter humor that are more distracting than illuminating: Fay runs a UPS-type store that doubles as a donut shop and piercing parlor, and treats her kitchen as a de facto greenhouse; Sylvie sneaks into Becket’s room, straddling him and flashing him while he sleeps, and later sells his possessions--either consciously or not--at a garage sale;  and the lactose-intolerant Becket has severe gastro-intestinal distress after accidentally eating a meal laden with heavy cream. Later, after he and Fay become intimate, he tells her, “I never loved a person more than I loved trees before.”

While the filmmaker’s ambition to treat the hot-button issue as something more than Lifetime television movie-style fodder is admirable, the overly mannered and self-conscious results fail to ring true.

(Tribeca Film Festival)

Production: Olympus Pictures

Cast: Melissa Leo, Marin Ireland, Josh Hamilton, Jamie Harrold, Nelson Landrieu

Director/screenwriter: Eniz Zentelis

Producers: Eniz Zentelis, Mandy Beckner, Anthony Brandonisio, Riel Roch Decter, Erik Weigel, Melissa Leo

Executive producers: Leslie Urdang, Dean Vanech

Director of photography: Daniel Sharnoff

Editor: Mollie Goldstein

Production designer: Thomas Ambrose

Costume designer: Anney Perrine

Composers: Tim Boland, Sam Retzer

Not rated, 81 min.