Being a momma’s boy like I am, seeing the trailer for “The Meddler” rang a few bells with me, as the term has not been a foreign one in my household before during both me and my sister’s upbringing. Though to a much lesser extent, I knew from both sides what each character in “The Meddler” was feeling, as I’ve been in both sides of the situation before many different times. My mother really wants me to live in Los Angeles post-grad, so if anything, “The Meddler” presents itself as a dream of my mother’s, with her living in Los Angeles with me as a writer, it’s everything my mom is dreaming of at the moment. Going into the film, before I met a single character, I knew I had a connection with it from the start.
Marnie Minervini (Susan Sarandon) is a retired widower now living in Los Angeles to be closer to her daughter, Lori (Rose Byrne) after her husband’s death and Lori’s nasty break-up from her long-time boyfriend, Jacob (Jason Ritter). During her first few weeks, Lori begins to realize that her mother doesn’t have much to do beyond checking up on her and tries to get her involved other places. Marnie begins to get close with Lori’s friends, even going so far to fund the wedding of her friend, Jillian (Cecily Strong). Marnie also befriends an Apple Store employee, Freddy (Jerrod Carmichael), whom she helps with his education. Also in the mix is a retired police officer, Zipper (J.K. Simmons), whom Marnie tries not to get swept up by after her husband’s death.
“The Meddler” is 100% Sarandon’s show, with every scene catering to Sarandon’s heartbreaking wit and charisma. Throughout the film, there is a heartbreaking element of conquering loneliness, which you desperately don’t want for Marnie, as she is simply too pure of a soul to be unhappy. This makes the film more engaging than a film like this really should be, leading you to root for her throughout the entire film. Typically, in comedy-drama’s like this, you can find a loose sense of connection, but Sarandon delivers the goods here, much like Sally Field in “Hello, My Name is Doris,” another rare film of its kind.
Writer and director Lorene Scarafia finds a wonderful atmosphere in the almost dreamlike image of what Marnie views Los Angeles to be. Skulking around The Grove and palm tree lined streets, Marnie finds herself stuck in the typical image of what Los Angeles is made out to be and embraces the change from her former Brooklyn surroundings. I found this aesthetic and almost surreal atmosphere to work in the film’s favor, as it showed the prospect of change in a really effective way. Los Angeles might be beautiful, but no matter how beautiful a locale is, change sucks, which “The Meddler” hits really well.
“The Meddler” had the opportunity to take the cutesy route of filmmaking, and while the film has its cute and charming moments about it, the film thankfully focuses a lot on Marnie’s journey of self-discovery in the face of loss. Her realization that her daughter has a life of her own and that she can too is one that not only is an important conversation for the character, it’s an important conversation for many children to have with their parents. Lori’s love is no less for Marnie when she isn’t around, she just needs that space that Marnie has to realize to give her. “The Meddler” doesn’t seek to give audiences all the answers, and Marnie doesn’t look to be 100% resolved, but it’s ability to take things in steps, unlike many other films, is really impressive and quite refreshing.
It’s really easy to write “The Meddler” off as a cutesy indie comedy-drama, but it’s so much more than that. It’s Sarandon’s best work in years, the script finds a unique and charming groove to it and Scarafia’s direction works really well with its atmosphere. The film raises questions that require discussing in a lot of parent-child relationships and really hit home with me, especially being in college right now, it did a lot. By all technicalities, “The Meddler” is a mimimalist film, but the work it does is far from minimal.
Directed by: Lorene Scarafia
Starring: Susan Sarandon, Rose Byrne, and J.K. Simmons, Cecily Strong, Jerrod Carmichael, Jason Ritter, Billy Magnussen, Lucy Punch, Sarah Baker, Amy Landecker, Casey Wilson, Harry Hamlin, Laura San Giacomo, with Michael McKean.
Runtime: 100 minutes
Rating: PG-13 for brief drug content.
Now playing exclusively at the Regal Manor Twin.
A Sony Pictures Classics release, Stage 6 Films presents, an Anonymous Content production, a film by Lorene Scarafia, “The Meddler”