Terrific acting by Susan Sarandon as a widower and overly nosy mom to her grown daughter. The Meddler is a slice of life that hits a lot of truthful notes of a widower who silently grieves by pouring herself not only into her daughter’s life, but into the lives of others whom she has just met. Rose Byrne plays her Los Angeles resident daughter Lori, and while I think she is one of the most reliable actresses for any role, I think she is a bit too shrill here. We hate how our mothers smother us, but inside, we still love them.
Marnie Minervini, the Sarandon character, overextends herself by trying to be as helpful as possible to too many people (sometimes the movie itself overextends trying to add too many sub-characters and busy activities). Yes, there’s a little too much here and there, but there’s always Sarandon who carries us through with part gusto and part melancholy.
When Lori goes absent for awhile when she takes a screenwriting gig in New York, it leaves Marnie at her most enhanced need to channel her mothering helpfulness onto others. She needs to be needed. Then she is courted by an ex-cop named Zipper, who raises chickens, rides a Harley (not a motorcycle, a Harley!), and sings and plays guitar. She is smitten by him and scared at the same time for reasons best understood by any widower who has only been with one man for thirty years and then must move on. Simmons couldn’t be any more quirky or real as this tough guy/ soft heart divorcee, and he proves once again he’s one of our most invaluable character actors.
“The Meddler” leads us where it must inevitably, but does it patiently and believably so as Marnie keeps her ways but finds a more even-keeled steadiness to her behavior. It’s the kind of movie that grows on you more and more as a couple of days roll on. Make no mistake, though, it’s Sarandon and Simmons you love here, not Byrne.
100 Minutes. Rated PG-13.
COMEDY-DRAMA / FOOD FOR THOUGHT / SPRING AWAKENING
Film Cousins: “An Unmarried Woman” (1978); “Stepmom” (1998); “Anywhere But Here” (1999); “Something’s Gotta Give” (2003).