“The Meddler” (2015)
Marnie (Susan Sarandon) is a recent widow, whose husband left a substantial amount of money to live on, so much so that Marnie can buy the latest iPad without having to check her checking account balance. Marnie has moved from New York City to sunny Los Angeles to be closer to her daughter, Lori (Rose Byrne) who is a television writer trying to put the finishing touches on her pilot. Lori is recovering from a failed relationship and isn’t exactly coping with the breakup in the best way possible. Lori is an only child and therefore is Marnie’s sole focus. Marnie leaves rambling phone messages for her daughter, the kind that takes two or three attempts before Marine is done talking. Marnie thinks nothing of coming over with bagels in the middle of the morning, barging into Lori’s life without a moment’s notice. Marnie is all about giving advice, and while good at it, the non-stop stream of opinions on how Lori should be running her life is driving Lori to her wits end. Marnie does not have an off switch and thinks nothing of following Lori into the bathroom, dispensing words of wisdom at the exasperation of her daughter.
Marnie pushes the boundaries with just about everyone she meets, but it’s so bad with Lori, that Marnie even sees Lori’s psychiatrist, not to help with her own grieving but to get inside information about Lori. When Lori travels to New York to shoot her pilot, Marnie is left behind to take care of her “grandkids,” Lori’s two dogs at her house. Forced to find other distractions, especially when Lori won’t answer her phone, Marie is willing to talk to just about anybody.To fill the void of Lori’s absence, Marnie goes to her favorite place in L.A., the outdoor shopping mall, The Grove. There she meets a helpful Apple Genius, who she quickly councils on going back to school. Marnie also goes to a baby shower in Lori’s place and quickly makes her way into Lori’s circle of friends. When one of Lori’s friends mentions she never got the wedding she wanted, Marnie offers to pay for a second wedding of her dreams.
Out on one of her trips to The Grove, she unintentionally becomes an extra in a movie filming on the beach. She decides to go with the flow and stays, even having lunch with some of the cast members. As she leaves the shoot, she meets a cop (J.K. Simmons) doing security on the set. It’s a meeting that just might change Marnie’s outlook on her life.
While surrounded by a supporting cast that includes Jason Ritter, Michael McKean, Lucy Punch, Cecily Strong and Jerrod Carmichael, it’s Susan Sarandon’s film, with a great deal of help from Byrne and Simmons. Sarandon is phenomenal as the big-hearted, well-meaning Marnie. With a lesser actor, the character of Marnie would have become old quickly and her advice giving would have soon become unwelcoming, but this is a role that is tailor-made for Sarandon. Sarandon has one of those rare qualities that almost as soon as she appears on the screen we like her character, and want her to succeed in whatever quest she is on. She plays well off of Rose Byrne, making their characters back-and-forth banter feel natural. Sarandon has equally exceptional chemistry with Simmons, making their attraction to each other seem unique. Their time on the the screen makes you believe that this just might be the man who can get Marnie to believe in love again.
Writer/director Lorene Scafaria has created a world that I just loved to be a part of. While not everything works in this film, and a few actors are wasted in small parts that begged to be larger (Stong and Punch come to mind); the movie has a number of small moments that make the film seem rich and multifaceted. Scafaria obviously loves these characters, especially the opinionated Marnie. This could have easily been a mother/daughter crisis comedy film but it’s to Scafaria’s credit that it is so much more than that. It’s about finding love and purpose again after a loss. There are a couple of scenes near the end of the film that really brings this out of Marnie and through Scafaria direction, Sarandon is up to the emotional task.
As with the recent films, “I’ll See You in My Dreams” and “Hello, My Name is Doris,” “The Meddler” gives us hope that Hollywood will continue this trend of making films about strong, older women. Women that are reinventing their lives for the better. I don’t know about you but I could use some of Marnie’s advice right now. My Rating: Full Price
My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again
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