Everyone probably has a Marnie Minervini somewhere in their life. That’s the character Susan Sarandon plays in the appropriately named The Meddler which opens Friday from Sony Pictures Classics after first making its World Premiere in September at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Inspired by writer/director Lorene Scafaria’s (Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World) relationship with her own mother, Sarandon plays a widowed mom who, still trying to get over the death a year earlier of her husband, moves from New Jersey to Los Angeles in order to be closer to her grown screenwriter daughter Lori (Rose Byrne). But thisclose is not what Lori was seeking.
Armed with her new iPhone, Marnie constantly texts her daughter, calls her several times a day to see where she is, and even visits Lori’s psychiatrist to find out what is going on in her life. Some might call all of this “meddling,” but Marnie just sees it as the motherly thing to do. When Lori conveniently has to go to New York on business (and no doubt escape mom’s tightening grasp), Marnie, for the first time, has to come to terms with truly being alone. She compensates by helping others, such as a friend of Lori’s (SNL‘s Cecily Strong) for whom she offers to pay for her upcoming wedding, helping out old people in need, even appearing as an extra when she accidentally wanders on to a movie set on the beach in Venice. There she meets a warm cop turned security guard (J.K. Simmons) and strikes up a friendship he clearly would like to take to another level. As with another would-be suitor (Michael McKean), though, she keeps them at arms length, still trying to deal with the loss in her life. How she eventually does that is where this simple and sweet character study heads.
As I say in my video review (click the link above to watch), as the title character Susan Sarandon gets to shine in her best screen outing in some time. Adopting a strong New Jersey accent, Sarandon manages the neat trick of never making Marnie overbearingly obnoxious, but actually a kind soul trying to bring human connection back into her life in the only way she knows, by giving back and being interested in other lives. She’s what you call a “dear heart.” Byrne is properly frustrated by the smothering attention, but it is Simmons who really brings gravitas and a nice touch to the proceedings, creating some beautiful chemistry with Sarandon. There are also fine supporting turns from Jerrod Carmichael as the Apple Store employee she befriends, and Strong as the soon-to-be-bride she barely knows but becomes her benefactor. Scafaria keeps the characters believable and likable which is key for this kind of human comedy. But it is Sarandon whose instinctive intelligence and natural style holds it all together. Joy Gorman Wettels and Paul Green produced for Anonymous Content and Stage 6 Films.
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