The Meddler is everything that Mother’s Day wasn’t.
While audiences were forced to endure the latest contrived/trivial Garry Marshall film, Lorene Scafaria film is far more authentic and nuanced. Navigating the mother-daughter dynamic can be tricky and most writer-directors give that dynamic more of a sitcom-like feel. The Meddler is different. Lorine Scafaria creates a narrative that is so heartfelt, the film feels like a tribute to mothering.
Sarandon stars as Marnie Minervini, a widow from New Jersey who moves to Los Angeles to be closer to her screenwriter daughter Lori (Rose Byrne). Marnie views her move as a way to help her daughter; Lori perceives the move as “Meddling” in her affairs. She views her as an incessant calling, texting, obsessive person who loves to show up unannounced. Marnie is a lost soul looking for someone to care for after losing the love of her life.
Marnie seems to have difficulties handling grief. Her late husband has been dead for over a year, and she still won’t make a decision on the ashes. Instead of dealing with her problems, she tries solving Lori’s after a sudden breakup. Quickly this becomes too much for Lori, and she demands on that boundaries need to be set with her mother.
While most would think this would be the moment Marnie would finally confront her grief, she instead uses this moment to now “help” others. She sets out to befriend Freddy, the Apple Store genius who taught her how to use the I-Phone. Marnie also agrees to plan and pay for Jillian’s wedding as a way of “cementing” their bond.
Marnie quickly becomes self-aware that none of this is going to fill the hole she has after losing her husband. She does not reach this epiphany on her own; it takes the charm and tender heart of an ex-cop named Zipper (J.K. Simmons) to open up her eyes to the truth. Sarandon’s character is immediately drawn to him because both of having deep emotional baggage.
The highlight of this film is, without question, Susan Sarandon. She brings such an emotional core to the movie that elevates the overall quality. Sarandon demonstrates how emotionally trying being a mother can be. Conventional wisdom would suggest that being a mother was simply one thing but these days it is everything. It is a listener, it is a friend, it is there to help a child pick up the pieces. Mothering is not pretty yet there is a certain beauty that comes with being a good mother.
Sarandon is equally effective playing the role of the recent widow. She has such expressive eyes that her looks exhibited this deep seeded pain that was undeniable. Equally effective was just how lost she seemed at times, going from person to person trying to fill a void that couldn’t be filled. It is safe to say that this performance is the best that Susan Sarandon has had in many years.