Film Review: The Meddler

Posted in Reviews, Top Stories by - May 09, 2016
Film Review: The Meddler

The Meddler opens with Marnie Minvervini, played by the always amazing Susan Sarandon, narrating what’s been happening in her life. After a few moments of the seeming voice-over, we realize that she is actually talking to someone – well, something. She’s leaving a super-long and super-detailed message for her daughter. Like the shift in the opening that appears to be one thing before changing to another, the movie itself begins as trite and sentimental, but turns out to be funny, meaningful, and worth seeing.

It is the very definition of dramedy. In interview with BUST, director Lorene Scafaria said, “…the idea of the film…to peel back the layers of a meddler to see what it’s like to her when he’s alone, to…see what loneliness is really like.” The meddler is Marnie, an aging widow from NY whose husband passes away. She then follows her daughter to LA to start a new life. She uses her meddling habits to avoid her own life, or lack thereof. She attends a baby shower for one of her daughter’s friends, even though her daughter doesn’t go. She offers to babysit for Jillian (Cecily Strong) one of the moms there, and instead winds up throwing her a dream wedding. She goes to the Apple store and meets Freddy (Jerrod Carmichael). Marnie tells him how smart he is and suggests he goes to college and become a lawyer. He enrolls in college, and she begins driving him to and from, even going so far as to buy the same textbooks he has so she can study with him. Her life is all about others.

Until it gets to be about herself.

Marnie meets Zipper, portrayed by J.K. Simmons in a stunning way. He’s a retired cop who keeps chickens and rides a Harley. Sparks fly, but Marnie isn’t ready to stop being Joe’s widow. Instead of blossoming with Zipper, Marnie pulls away and spends more time meddling, busying herself with other people’s lives and problems.

Meanwhile her daughter, Lori, played by Rose Byrne, has hit her limit with her mother’s non-stop meddling. She goes back to NY for two weeks to shoot the pilot for a TV show, warning her mother that she will be completely out of reach. Someone else will have her phone, she says, so don’t even bother trying to call. But when a crisis hits, Lori learns that maybe her mother’s meddling isn’t the worst thing.

While most of the movie hangs together well, the attempted relationship with Mark feels forced for the sake of a joke. He only appears twice, and he is wonderfully played by Michael McKeen, but he doesn’t contribute anything to the growth of Marnie’s character. One of the many lessons in the movie is that you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.

Lori doesn’t originally see her mother’s meddling as good, but by the end, she comes to appreciate it. Sort of. And the friends Marnie make find her wonderful and caring. Dramedies are not normally my cup of tea, but this one managed to hit the high notes and keep going strong.

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