MOVIE: THE MEDDLER
STARRING: SUSAN SARANDON; ROSE BYRNE; J.K. SIMMONS; MICHAEL MCKEAN
DIRECTED BY: LORENE SCAFARIA
AMovieGuy.com’s RATING: 3 STARS (Out of 4)
The love of a mother is the greatest love of all. In The Meddler, it flourishes in the form of Susan Sarandon as an overbearing mamma who makes herself a part of her daughters life (Rose Byrne) and many other people she meets, while coping with the loss of their beloved husband & father. Although the title seems a bit menacing, and what will be perceived as another mother-daughter rom-com, this is a surprisingly gentle movie about dealing with loss and grief. Director Lorene Scafaria (Seeking a Friend for the End of the World) will remind audiences of how great of an actress Sarandon is, while telling a story that is an honest portrayal of family. The Meddler is shockingly touching.
Marni is coping with the loss of her husband in many different ways. She spends hours of the day making an uncountable amount of phone calls to daughter Lori (Byrne). She is certain to call back when she doesn’t hear a response within five minutes, and texting if she doesn’t hear back after that. Lori is depressed from her breakup with her boyfriend and wants mom to keep her nose out of it. And since her husband has left a large amount of money, Marni spends it on anything she can, or help someone willing to talk to her. She shows up at a baby shower of a friend of Lori’s, gifting an iPad “because the guy at the genius bar told me they make great gifts for baby’s” as she says in her twangy New Jersey accent.
Written and directed by Scafaria, it is largely based on the director’s relationship with her own mother. The genuine tender moments allow the heartfelt plot to win audiences over. Who doesn’t have a mother? And who hasn’t dealt with grief in their own specific way? The character of Marni will be relatable to many. She is a kind woman, with a lot of love to give. Those she held closest to her have either moved on in life or are miles away in New York. Since Lori can’t be bugged, Marni becomes friends with a young man at the Apple store (Jerrod Carmichael) and drives him to school every day. She helps out at the local hospital with a woman who is sick. She even meets a police officer named Zip (J.K. Simmons) who has a chicken coop, plays guitar, and equally matches Sarandon in the charm department.
A month ago, Jean-Marc Vallee's film Demolition also dealt with the topic of grief, and is a different take on how it is expressed individually by anyone affected. While Marnie copes by embedding herself into the lives of acquaintances as an avoidance tactic, Jake Gyllenhaal in Demolition destroys house appliances after the sudden death of his wife. The Meddler is the better film, largely because it has a more resilient and imperfectly human character at its center. On the surface, Sarandon has a beautiful beating heart full of love and charisma, but subtle moments reveal the unavoidable impact of loss and loneliness seeping through. Marni still carries her late husband's drivers license, and shy's away from any opportunity to begin a new love life. At a dinner with his brothers, she shares that she can't believe it has already been a year since his passing, only to be corrected by his family; it's been two years, not one. The mind is the best story teller of all, and illustrates what it wants when we miss our loved ones.
Although the story is a bit thin outside of Sarandon's adventures, I found The Meddler to be an astonishing achievement for multiple reasons. This story is authentic in its portrayal of family, loss, and how we mask that pain. This is a female centered movie, directed by a woman, and worthy of receiving the attention from audiences everywhere. Above all, it will make you appreciate the sensitive, kind, love that was poured in by everyone involved. The Meddler will pester it's way into your heart and you will leave happy you saw it.
Written by: Leo Brady