Director: Lorene Scafaria
Writer : Lorene Scafaria
The Meddler opens with Susan Sarandon providing a heavily accented voice over that is so jarring, it sets you up to expect an indulgent character study. But while you’re bracing yourself for the veteran actor to demonstrate every one of her years of experience, you are pleasantly surprised. Much like Al Pacino in Danny Collins (2015), The Meddler pairs an excellent script with a consummate performer and the result is a delightful visit to a place that movies don’t normally take you.
Marnie (Susan Sarandon) is a sixty something widow who has moved to LA to be closer to her busy daughter Lori (Rose Byrne). Everyone knows someone like Marnie. Helpful to a fault, she puts everyones needs in front of her own, but when Lori shies away from her overbearing attention, she shifts her focus to new LA acquaintances and Loris friends. To them she is a fairy godmother, providing genuine help and tangible support, but the satisfaction she receives from their gratitude is fleeting and she moves on quickly. It’s the moving that’s important, the constant motion to avoid spending any time with herself.
There’s a simple truth to the characters and their behaviour in The Meddler that indicates that Scafaria was writing from experience. Whether it’s a hint of lipstick on teeth that’s left unmentioned, or the offer of a supporting hand that goes ignored, it’s often the silent moments that speak the loudest and it’s that depth of detail that add layers to each scene that sets the whole story in a reality that we recognise.
When someone dies it’s logical that they are the focus of attention, but when the funeral is over and everyone else goes back to their own lives, it’s the surviving spouse who has to adjust to the rest of their life. A large part of their identity has gone and there is a risk that they can float untethered to who they used to be. So it’s natural that Marnie heads across country to be closer to her only daughter. By forcing herself into Lori’s life she hopes the proximity to the life that she and her husband created is a way to keep his memory alive. She doesn’t anticipate that her presence to Lori is a constant reminder of her Fathers absence. How they negioatate that dynamic is the premise of the film.
The Meddler is an unnecessarily negative title that will probably affect the gross, but it’s a simple story told well, littered with enjoyable performances and engaging characters. With no action heroes or special effects, this is clearly aimed at an older audiences, and while there is no real urgency to run out and catch this while it is in cinemas, you could certainly do worse than watch this is on a random Friday night.