The Meddler

 photo meddler_zpsymwvy5tf.jpg photo starrating-3stars.jpgThese days, Susan Sarandon is more likely to make headlines with her political beliefs than her films. For the record, she was in the minor hit Tammy two years prior in 2014. However that was more of a comedic vehicle for Melissa McCarthy than an opportunity for the Oscar winner to stretch her acting chops. Curiously, this time around she has to share space in equal billing with Rose Byrne on the movie poster. Make no mistake, however, Susan Sarandon is the indisputable star of The Meddler. Byrne, along with the rest of the cast: J. K. Simmons, Cecily Strong and Jerrod Carmichael exist as bit parts in support of the seasoned actress.

Susan Sarandon plays Marnie, a lonely widow who has moved from one coast to the other so she can be with her screenwriter daughter, Lori.   Feeling isolated and heartbroken, Marnie has left her home in New York for LA. Actually that’s New Yawk — spelled that way because she has the exaggerated accent to match.  Marnie’s husband has only recently passed away and so she is adjusting to a fresh restart. As the title conveys, Marnie attempts to get involved in Lori’s life: leaving frequent messages on her cell phone, dropping by with little notice, offering unsolicited advice. When her own daughter proves resistant to her interference, Marnie readjusts her priorities and moves on to encroaching upon the lives of the people she meets. There is Lori’s gal pal, the Apple store clerk and an elderly woman at the hospital. How this “kibitzer” changes the lives of these people is rather unforeseeable.

The Meddler is a production of modest charms. This is an account concerning ordinary people dealing with ordinary things. That makes it somewhat forgettable in a way, but the script is better than what you predict. Writer-director Lorene Scafaria penned Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, one of my favorites from 2008. The Meddler is her 2nd time behind the director’s chair after 2012’s Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. She does a great job of elevating the tale above the atmosphere of what could have been a routine sitcom. Scafaria’s intelligent screenplay has something genuinely interesting to say about loss, grief and how those issues can affect us as we age.

The Meddler subverts expectations. As the narrative begins to play out, I kept anticipating that Marnie would become the butt of the joke, but she never does. Usually relegated as a background character, Susan Sarandon’s role is reminiscent of a sitcom trope I call “overbearing mom to celebrity comedian”. Yet she is not banished to the background of the story, she IS the story. The plot is lovingly constructed around her saga. She is sweetly sympathetic. She behaves like a caring mom, if perhaps a bit suffocating. If nothing else, the drama is a suitable showcase for the veteran performer. It’s nice to see that in 2016, great actresses of a certain age can still excel in indie films amidst all the FX and explosions of blockbuster Hollywood. This has been a recent trend. Sally Field and Helen Mirren have also scored this year with indie hits. Susan Sarandon’s achievement is more than enough reason to enjoy The Meddler.

05-19-16

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4 Responses to “The Meddler”

  1. good review Mark. i enjoyed this movie a bit more than you did. Sarandon’s performance is the reason to see this movie. She really creates a fascinating character.

    It’s a small but engrossing film like About Schmidt, Robot & Frank, Everything must Go, Young Adult, and Blue Jasmine. But The Meddler has a lighter tone than these mentioned.

    • I liked all of those movies mentioned significantly more than The Meddler. The familiarity of the story made it feel like a cable TV movie, albeit a very well acted one.

  2. This was a cute film. Nothing especially great about this, but I enjoyed it. 3 stars

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