2 out of 5 stars
Marnie Minervini (Susan Sarandon) is searching for her purpose in life. Since her husband died two years ago, her life has been relegated to shopping at the Apple store and meddling in her daughter’s life. She moved from New Jersey to Los Angeles to be closer to her daughter Lori (Rose Byrne), but she has become more of a burden than support to her only child. Marnie tries to get involved in Lori’s life by coming around to her house unannounced, meeting up with Lori’s friends without her daughter there and calling to check in multiple times during the day. When Lori goes to New York for work, Marnie must find her way in Los Angeles on her own. She pours herself into the lives of many of the people that have come into her California life, until her life is disrupted by a retired police officer named Zipper (J.K. Simmons). Between trying to re-connect with her daughter, finding her feet in a new world and manage the grief from the loss of her husband, her story becomes one of self-discovery and finding out what this season of life will bring.
Grief is a part of life that takes on different forms in all who experience it. The Meddler travels through all of the stages of grief by showing the divergent experiences of a mother and daughter. Writer and director Lorene Scafaria (Seeking a Friend for the End of the World) provides a platform for a family that is struggling through the loss of their husband and father. Showing that many times that when people go through difficult times they push away those they love the most, but yearn for their love and presence. This becomes a rich story with marvellous characters, but is undermined by a political agenda that unnecessarily distracts from the heart of this family's journey.
Casting is not a problem for the three primary characters and they all are a strong catalyst for Susan Sarandon to propel the story forward. The Academy Award winning actress continues to prove that she has a commanding presence on the screen. She dominates every scene and shows a sincere commitment to her character. Sarandon will remind people of their own mothers and their ability to make things right in their own quirky manner. True to her character in most films, Byrne gives a neurotic performance and provides Sarandon fuel for remaining an overbearing mother figure. Finally, J.K. Simmons manages the role of the understated retired cop and provides the calming effect on the storyline. Lorene Scafaria has managed to source a wonderful cast and capitalises on their strong thespian prowess in delivering home this understated narrative.
The writing and direction are well done, but becomes heavy handed in driving home a social agenda. With the inclusion of these elements it causes the wheels to come off of The Meddler and spoils what had the potential to be a heart-warming and endearing tale of responding to grief.
REEL DIALOGUE: What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. - Psalm 34:18
Death is one of the certainties of life, but we all respond differently when confronted with it. Fortunately, God does not leave people without an answer during these times of grief. He is a God who can truly weep with those who are weeping, because his Son died, too. He is near to the brokenhearted and can provide hope during a time that will inevitably effect everyone in one way or another.
1. What is sacrificial love? (John 15:13, Ephesians 5:25)
2. Is life mysterious? (Colossians 2:1-3, Matthew 13:11-13)
3. Does God care about my life? (Matthew 6: 8, 26)