The Meddler – Film Review


The Meddler – Film Review by Emily Elphinstone

Director: Lorene Scafaria
Writer: Lorene Scafaria
Stars: Susan Sarandon, Rose Byrne, J.K. Simmons

From a quick glance at the title, and the opening sequence of chirpy New Jersey mother Marnie Minervini (played by the ever wonderful Susan Sarandon) leaping out of bed and describing her new home of Los Angeles as like living in Disneyland, one could be forgiven for mistaking ‘The Meddler’ for a fluffy chickflick. Luckily with a semi-autobiographical script by writer/director Lorene Scafaria, and Sarandon delivering her best performance for years, it is much more than that.

After the death of her husband, Marnie has moved to Los Angeles to be nearer to her screenwriter daughter Lori (Rose Byrne), who is struggling to come to terms with the break up of her relationship, and the death of her father. As the title suggests, Marnie’s well-meaning plan to care for her daughter by calling, texting, dropping by, and even ingratiating herself with Lori’s friends and therapist, is not entirely welcome; and when Lori heads to New York for work, Marnie is forced to find other outlets for her generosity. This includes paying for and organising the wedding of Lori’s friend Jillian (Cecily Strong), volunteering in a hospital, and (after frequent visits to the Apple store) encouraging staff member Frank (Jerrod Carmichael) to go to college; even driving him to class.

What could be cloyingly stereotypical is transformed by Sarandon, with brief glimpses of the cracks in her bouncy veneer, revealing the inner struggle to mourn her husband.

These fragile, moving moments are then contrasted with Sarandon’s excellent comic timing, as Marnie gets into scrapes like accidentally wandering onto a film set and becoming an extra. In turn, Sarandon is surrounded by a brilliant supporting cast. There is great chemistry between Rose Byrne’s straight laced daughter and Sarandon’s flamboyant mother, creating the nuances of a complex relationship without over-decorating it. Meanwhile J.K.Simmons fleshes out a relatively minor role as Marnie’s chicken keeping ex-cop (possible) love interest Zipper, to create an incredibly charismatic character.

With an episodic feel, glimpsing different moments of Marnie’s journey into self-discovery, there is a sense that one could wander off to explore any number of tangents she passes through, creating a somewhat meandering pace. However, with a wealth of truly recognizable and realistically flawed characters, ‘The Meddler’ is reminiscent of Marnie herself: You may want to laugh, cry, and hide your face in embarrassment; but you wouldn’t change it for the world.


Categories: Header, Movie Review, Movies

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