There are reasons why Brian M. Cassidy and Melanie Shatzky‘s Francine only managed a 63% positive on Rotten Tomatoes and a 62% on Metacritic. 62% or 63% means “not bad but with problems.” Francine is an austere study of a recently released ex-con (the great Melissa Leo) who’s unable to bond with humans and who turns to animals (cats, dogs, hamsters) for intimacy and affection. That’s all it is really. But Leo so disappears into the role that Francine is at least absorbing and at times a little more so.

Melissa Leo — Monday, 5.22, 5:50 pm in third-floor suite within Beverly Hills Montage hotel.

There’s a brief but rather ballsy nude scene at the very beginning that tells you straight off, “This is not going to be a portrait of a character who will eventually find redemption and happiness.”

I met Leo the other day at the Beverly Hills Montage and spoke with her for 10 or 15 minutes. I’m a longtime fan so it was easy. Everyone is acknowledging that she owns the last few minutes of Flight. She portrays a National Transportation and Safety Board official who cross-examines Denzel Washington‘s secretly alcoholic pilot, and the drip-drip tension is so thick you can cut it with a blade of grass.

I didn’t ask Leo about all the upcoming indie films she’s acted in, and which are now in post-production. She works like there’s no tomorrow. The newbies reportedly include Olympus Has Fallen, Oblivion, A Single Shot, The Butler (in which she’ll play Mamie Eisenhower to Robin Williams‘ Dwight D. Eisenhower), The Angriest Man in Brooklyn, The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman and Something in the Water. She’s also slated to costar in Prisoners, I Fought the Law and Over the Wall.

Leo looks and sounds terrific in person — a polar opposite from the sad, congealed person she plays in Francine.