meddle verb med·dle \ˈme-dəl\: to become involved in the activities and concerns of other people when your involvement is not wanted.
Sorry sports fans, The Meddler is not about the Olympics. It’s a personal film written and directed by Lorene Scafaria, starring Susan Sarandon in her best role in years. Her character Marnie (based on Scafaria’s mother) is an aging widow from Brooklyn who moves to L.A. in order to be closer to her daughter, Lori (Rose Byrne). Marnie means well, but Lori finds her constant calls and unexpected drop-ins suffocating and intrusive to her work as a screenwriter. When Lori travels to NYC to visit the set of a film she’s working on, Marnie must stay behind and entertain herself. A natural meddler who can’t help but interject her thoughts on family members and strangers alike, it doesn’t take long for her to make new friends and insert herself directly into their affairs.
The word “meddle” has negative connotations. Most people don’t want anybody up in their business, especially a stranger. The twist in The Meddler is that aside from Lori, nobody seems to mind Marnie’s help or advice, in fact, they welcome it. While her forward behavior is a little odd, it’s obvious she means well, and she comes across like a pal, genuine and positive. People like her, and she makes it easy for them to accept her gifts, be it a free ride or an entire wedding ceremony. When her husband passed away, he left her with a great deal of wealth, and she shares it like she’d be selfish not to. It’s been two years since his death (she mistakenly thinks that it’s only been one) and she still hasn’t picked out a headstone. Marnie stays busy as a way of distracting herself from the grief of her loss, and she seems to be getting along fine, but when she stumbles onto a live film set and meets Zipper — a nice cop played by J.K. Simmons — it may be time to face the music and settle up with the past.
Scafaria’s film is an enjoyable adult comedy with a light, easygoing tone and a little something under the hood. Sarandon elevates the movie with a layered, charismatic performance that makes one wonder why she doesn’t get more starring roles. She’s exceptional and endearing. J.K. Simmons does his best Sam Elliott impression (mustache and all) and is likable and laid back — the total opposite of his Whiplash character. Rose Byrne is typically bland, but her naturally pouty face is fitting of the role. The Meddler is an entertaining dramedy with a nice dose of humanity and it’s a solid Mother’s Day viewing alternative to Mother’s Day, the critically reviled Gary Marshall abomination that’s trying to capitalize on the holiday.
3.5 out of 5 Nerdskulls
The Meddler is now playing in Houston at Landmark River Oaks.
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