Movie review of ‘The Meddler’: Susan Sarandon finds just the right balance in her performance as a widow who is well-meaning but overbearing. 3.5 stars out of 4.
“The Meddler,” alas, comes to theaters a week too late for Mother’s Day — that’s a shame, because Lorene Scafaria’s charming mother/daughter comedy is exponentially better than either “Mothers and Daughters” or Garry Marshall’s “Mother’s Day.”
Marnie Minervini (Susan Sarandon) is a well-off New Jersey widow who’s moved to Los Angeles to be near her 30-something daughter, Lori (Rose Byrne), an unmarried screenwriter who chafes at her mother’s constant advice.
Sarandon, whose Marnie has a fondness for drapey cardigans and bright lipstick, finds just the right balance for her character, who’s both warmly loving and thoroughly exasperating. Marnie sees no problem with checking her daughter’s Google search history, searching her drawers and managing Lori’s professional life. (“I met the cutest girl in the bathroom at JFK. She’s a blogger. I told her you’d have coffee with her.”) “How can I help?” she pleads, when Lori’s having a crisis — this woman doesn’t feel whole unless she’s providing assistance. When Lori pushes her away, Marnie spreads her mother-love wider: paying for and organizing a wedding for one of Lori’s friends, or giving career advice and chauffeur service to a young clerk at an Apple store.
Movie Review ★★★½
‘The Meddler,’ with Susan Sarandon, Rose Byrne, J.K. Simmons, Jerrod Carmichael, Cecily Strong. Written and directed by Lorene Scafaria. 100 minutes. Rated PG-13 for brief drug content. Pacific Place, Guild 45th, Lincoln Square.
Everybody’s feelings, of course, eventually get more or less sorted out, as “The Meddler” hums pleasantly along toward a resolution that brings mother and daughter closer together, with the help of a charming man (J.K. Simmons, his maple-syrup voice spreading sweetness over the movie) who catches Marnie’s eye. But Scafaria, who based the film on her experiences with her own widowed mother, accomplishes something rare: These characters don’t seem like types chosen from a screenwriting manual but like people we might know, with quirks and feelings and flaws and hearts. You root for Marnie, even when it’s clear why Lori struggles with her, and you hear her persistent voice in your head for a while afterward — reminding you, perhaps, to give your own mother a call.
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