Movie Review: THE MEDDLER. Starring: Susan Sarandon, Rose Byrne

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themeddler.jpgTHE MEDDLER (USA 2015) ***
Directed by Lorene Scafaria

Starring: Susan Sarandon, Rose Byrne, J.K. Simmons, Cecily Strong, Michael McKean, Jerrod Carmichael

Review by Gilbert Seah

Just a week after the comedy HELLO, MY NAME IS DORIS arrives another film with a senior protagonist. Though the two films are highly different, the target audience might be the same. THE MEDDLER will have tough shoes to fill, as the former film serves up more comedy, commercial style with 2-time Oscar winner Sally Field while THE MEDDLER is a combination of down-to-earth drama and autobiography. The story is fashioned from the writer/director Lorene Scarfaria’s relationship with her own mother.

THE MEDDLER of the film title is Marnie (Susan Sarandon), who after her husband’s death has nothing better to do but to meddle. But her meddling is not bad in any sense as her intentions are genuine. Her ‘meddling’ involves suffocating her daughter Lori (Rose Byrne), not giving her any space, helping a fast-food worker with his law degree and offering as much as underwriting $13,000 for Lori’s friend’s wedding among others.

When Lori finally has had enough of her mother and moves away to sort out her career, Marnie is forced to face the worse – not having her daughter around and to rethink her options. So she falls in love.

The trouble with THE MEDDLER that real life stories like the one based on the director’s mother do not turn out to be that interesting on film.

Another problem is that Marnie has no real obstacles to her life. Her life is actually a total breeze. She is financially more than able, thanks to late husband, and she has a loving daughter and two very eager lovers. These factors lowers the film’s interest even more. Director Scarfaria makes matters worse by having one eager lover, the one played by J.K. Simmons sing to his chickens, thus amplifying the desperation of the film’s story.

But the film contains a few neat surprises. Examples are Marnie’s upcoming romances. The way she ditches her lovers or possible lovers is nothing short of plain hilarious.

Sarandon has a track record of superlative performances in films such as THELMA AND LOUISE, LORENZO’S OIL and my personal favourite, THE WITCHES OF EASTWICK. And she is still a knockout at the age of almost 70. She makes the movie.

But the character of Marnie might not necessarily be a senior or mother. A best friend or younger person could have the same charter mould as Marnie. The script could have picked a different aged or even male protagonist to appeal to a wider audience and put some problems in her life to make the film more varied.

The result is a film more close to life (despite Marnie’s too convenient wealth) that it comes too close to home and monotonous. THE MEDDLER contains less humour and more drama, most of it brought on herself by the character. As such the target audience might prefer to watch a more fairy tale of a film like HELLO, MY NAME IS DORIS. Only box-office receipts will reveal the fate of both movies.

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