Striking a winning balance of insight, heart, and laugh-out-loud hilarity, the second feature from Lorene Scafaria (Seeking a Friend for the End of the World) stars the magnificent Susan Sarandon (Robot & Frank, Emotional Arithmetic) in one of her richest roles yet. Foregrounding a character typically relegated to the comic-relief sidelines, The Meddler is about that force of nature known as the doting mother.
For Marnie Minervini (Sarandon), motherhood is not a familial duty—it is a vocation. A compulsive advice-giver, the recently widowed but ceaselessly cheerful Marnie cannot stop texting, calling, and showing up unannounced (and with bagels in tow) at the home of her daughter Lori (Rose Byrne, TV’s Damages). Desperate to gain some control over her life following a messy breakup, Lori attempts to establish some boundaries with her mother, only to inadvertently unleash Marnie’s persistent meddling across the greater Los Angeles area. Whether out of habit or as an unconscious strategy to avoid dealing with her grief, Marnie cannot stop being a mom to everyone she meets, whether it is funding the wedding of one of Lori’s acquaintances or driving a young Apple Store clerk to college classes. But a chance encounter with a charismatic, chicken-raising rent-a-cop (J.K. Simmons, Whiplash) offers Marnie the opportunity to leave her supporting role behind and finally become the star of her own life.
Scafaria’s whip-smart storytelling and observations on relationships, ethnic ties, and the nuances of sixty-something dating provide the film with a pervasive warmth and authenticity, while Sarandon’s exceptional talents are on full display in one of the veteran actor’s most memorable creations. Alternately maddening, lovable, and delightful, Marnie is both The Meddler’s emotional heart and its greatest triumph.
“The Meddler serves as a lovely valentine not just to Scafaria’s mom, Gail, but to mothers everywhere—including the luminous Susan Sarandon in a role that seems to come naturally.” (Peter Debruge, Variety)