A lot of mirrors, reflections, and screens are deployed in this movie. But they’re placed by West and cinematographer Ed Wu (channeling past masters like Harris Savides, who once warned, “Don’t make things too beautiful“) in such a way as to make you pay closer attention to what’s happening in the frame at that moment, but without indicating precisely what you’re supposed to think about. West’s writing and direction, Wu’s photography, Marc Hadley’s circa-early-’80s synth score, Keara Burton’s editing, and the rest of the production team’s efforts are in sync. In the more lyrical sections (such as a slow-motion music montage that builds out the main characters’ worlds), the filmmaking itself takes center stage, not in a showy or domineering way, but as if the actors and filmmakers are just having fun, like kids trying to see how long they can bat a balloon around without letting it hit the floor.
Gaffigan, who’s proven himself a Nick Offerman/John Carroll Lynch-level character actor many times already, proves it again here in two roles. He seems to live completely within the sadness/disappointment of one and the control freak edginess of the other. Nacon, best known for “The Walking Dead,” grounds a character whose rebellious tendencies could become cliches if not depicted with care. Rush’s face, haircut, and demeanor are reminiscent of the hero of “Almost Famous,” but there’s something uniquely weighty and rueful about his work here that connects his character to the Edwins, all of whom grapple with melancholy even when they’re having fun.
Seehorn initially seems stuck in a better-written version of a standard indie movie Suffering Wife, but halfway through the story, you start to understand why she wanted to do the role. Her delivery late in the film of a profane two-word phrase that you’ve heard (and perhaps said) reinvigorates it and invests it with layers of insight—and notice how the movie holds on Seehorn for a few seconds afterward, as the character thinks about the meaning and repercussions of the act. “Linoleum” does that with many characters: giving them an extra beat after a big moment, so that they can make you feel two or three things instead of one.