Give Salma Hayek an Oscar nomination! She gave a multi-layered and nuanced performance in an otherwise good-but-not-spectacular film that had a great concept but not the cajones to flesh it - and Hayek's character - out beyond pop-eco/psycho babble. John Lithgow capably and excitingly volleyed with Hayek, but the rest of the ace cast filled their roles ably but with less overall purpose. "Carnage" still sets the benchmark for dining table drama; "August: Orange County" would be a slightly distant second.
Mike White's script lacked bite. It had humour both dark and squirm-worthy, and light and breezy, but nothing actually said that was not pop knowledge and the arguments on either side regarding white-privilege, environmentalism, class divide, compassion and empathy were only superficially explored. It seemed as if White and director Miguel Arteta were afraid to antagonise or vilify Hollywood and/or their producers.
Arteta smartly focused his camera on Hayek but unfortunately, and unsure if it was intentional or not, he has a predilection to focus on Hayek's buttock which really seemed at odd with the story's projection of an un-sexualised protagonist.
The casting was great with each actor very appropriately chosen. However, the roles of Jay Duplass and Chloë Sevigny felt extraneous. So much more could have been done to give them - and the others - more purpose. See: "Carnage".
The only consistent character was Lithgow's and he brought dimensions to an otherwise stock rich, white guy. And the added layers really gave Hayek something to work against and with.
As brilliant as Hayek was - her best role to date since Frida Kahlo - she was let down by inconsistent characterisation and an unfortunate ending that chose to be less ambiguous and more blunt. However, the second act was totally owned by her and Arteta smartly chose to allow Hayek's nuanced acting to take over even in moments of prolonged silence.
Connie Britton needs better roles and/or a better agent. Sevigny looked good and she has not had such glam roles in a while. And it's a pity Duplass and Amy Landecker did not interact more given that we know that have great chemistry on "Transparent".
At 83 minutes, the film was short, sweet and to the point. Just that it lost depth in the bargain.