For Lorene Sacraria’s second feature as a director, following the sublime 2012 film Seeking a Friend at the End of the World, she concentrates on the complex and strained relationship between the aging widow Marnie (Susan Sarandon) and her Hollywood filmmaker daughter Lori (Rose Byrne), bringing with her a characteristic wit and charm.
Following the death of Marnie’s husband, she moves out to Los Angeles from New York, hoping to reconnect with her only child. With Lori stuck in arrested development after a recent breakup, Marnie also winds up lonely and unable to move on with her life. Instead, Marnie throws herself and her inherited money into charity work, helping relative strangers get educated and married, and generally avoiding tackling her own life head on. Her world becomes more complicated when she meets retired cop Zipper (J.K. Simmons) who stirs up feelings of romance and guilt.
Despite the conventional romantic drama shopfront that the film puts up, Sacraria’s strength in THE MEDDLER is showcasing her skills as a writer of genuine characters dealing with real emotions. Just as she did in Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Sacraria concentrates on only a handful of characters and imbues them with sharp dialogue. Sarandon gives a memorable performance as Marnie, who on the surface is the epitome of an overbearing neurotic New York mother, but we gradually peel back layers as the film progresses. At times we sympathise with the seemingly put-upon Lori, at others we will curse her for shutting out her mother. The always wonderful J.K. Simmons is laid-back and charming in his supporting role, the antithesis and perfect match for Marnie. Byrne actually takes a smaller role in comparison, but Sacraria gives her a few key moments that are as heartbreaking as they are heartwarming. THE MEDDLER is a delightful film that slowly charms you, and like Marnie herself, comes to stay with you a while before unexpectedly getting you to rethink aspects of your own life.
THE MEDDLER released in Australia on 19 May 2016 from Sony. It was released in the US on 22 April 2016.
2015 | US | Dir: Lorene Sacraria | Writers: Lorene Sacraria | Cast: Susan Sarandon, Rose Byrne, J. K. Simmons,Cecily Strong, Jerrod Carmichael, Jason Ritter, Billy Magnussen, Lucy Punch | Distributor: Sony | Running time: 100 minutes | Rating:★★★★ (8/10)