The Meddler, rated PG-13
Oscar winner (for Dead Man Walking), and four-time Oscar nominee Susan Sarandon portrays Marnie and Rose Byrne is her daughter Lori. The film is based on writer/director Lorene Scararia’s real-life experiences with her mother after Lorene’s father died. Scararia has stated in interviews that the goal was to capture Marnie’s side of the story, and that empathy was a key theme in the film which is set in Los Angeles two years after Marnie’s husband Joe’s death. Joe left her enough money that she doesn’t have to work. Lori is a screenwriter that has relationship issues and is devastated by her break-up with an actor Jacob, played by Jason Ritter.
Marnie just can’t resist meddling in her daughter’s life. As the film begins we see Marnie constantly calling, texting and dropping by unexpectedly to see Lori. At a time when Marnie really needs Lori, Lori is not very nice to her. But we must remember that each of us go through loss differently. She needs to set boundaries with Marnie. Lori loves her Mom, but needs her space as she works through the loss of her father. Both mom and daughter see the same therapist, Diane, played by Amy Landecker.
When Marnie is turned away by her daughter, she seeks to build relationships with others (Freddy, a young man played by Jerrod Carmichael, who works at the Apple Store who helps her and she in turn encourages to go to college; Lori’s best friend, Jillian, played by Cecily Strong, who is a young lesbian mom who desires for the wedding she didn’t have and who needs a babysitter; and a lonely old woman in the hospital). At times she shows her love by spending extraordinary amounts of money, out of place given that she hardly knows the people. Is she trying to buy their friendship? She also strangely seems to care for these strangers more than her husband’s wonderful Italian family back east, who only want a headstone for Joe, or half of his ashes, neither of which Marnie responds to them about.
Marnie is pursued by two divorced men, Oscar nominee Michael McKean as Mark and Oscar winner (for his outstanding performance in Whiplash) J.K. Simmons as the likeable Zipper, a retired policeman, who also has relationship issues with a daughter. Ironically, even though Marnie craves her daughter’s attention, she is uncomfortable with male attention due to her difficulty dealing with her husband’s loss.
Sarandon is excellent in this role as the meddling mother and the grieving wife, as was J.K. Simmons as the low-key and comfortable-in-his-own-skin Zipper. Moral content issues in the film include the support of the lesbian wedding, sex outside of marriage and a strange comment from Lori about abortion. According to Scararia, in real-life, her mom (the Marnie character) was a person of faith, and that faith helped her through her loss. Unfortunately, the film shows none of Marnie’s faith. And despite a cast that includes Sarandon and Simmons, the film was pretty slow, and in many ways depicted what John Piper would refer to as a wasted life.