Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Movie Review #431: "The Meddler" (2016)

Movie"The Meddler"
Director: Lorene Scafaria
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
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Having trouble finding things to do with her time and money since her husband's death, Marnie (Susan Sarandon) starts to turn her daughter Lori (Rose Byrne), who is going through a rough breakup, into her pet project. Marnie also starts to get heavily involved in the life of Lori's acquaintances, as well as a random employee of the local Apple store (Jerrod Carmichael), all while gaining the courage to deal with and move past her husband's death. Without even looking, she also might be beginning new relationship with a retired police officer named Zipper (J.K. Simmons).

"The Meddler" is the second feature film written and directed by Lorene Scafaria. It revolves around a widow named Marnie, played by the charming and iconic Susan Sarandon, who is struggling to find things to do with her time and money more than a year after the death of her husband. She has recently followed her daughter Lori, played by Rose Byrne, to Los Angeles and has moved into her neighborhood. Lori has just gone through a difficult breakup and is in a deep depression, even going as far as googling how much valium it takes to commit suicide. Meddling where she shouldn't, Marnie makes helping Lori her hobby. Well, sort of. Marnie actually gets involved in the lives of many different people throughout the film. Once Lori leaves LA to go back to New York for work, Marnie makes it her business to attend functions with Lori's friends, and even barges her way into the life of Jillian, played by Cecily Strong, who lost her mother when she was young and never had a proper wedding. What's Marnie solution? To gives her the money so Jillian and her wife and can renew their vows and have a big, lavish reception to go along with it, because why not! She also encourages a local Apple store employee named Freddy, played by Jerrod Carmichael, to go to college so he can have a better career in the future.

The entirety of "The Meddler" is spent watching Marnie interject herself into these people's lives as we expect and wait for some kind of eventual conflict or for someone to call her on her blatant overstepping of any and all boundaries. In reality, this never really happens. The only person who ever wants to set boundaries with Marnie is her daughter, who we believe is well within her right to do so. This film seems very pro-meddling, if you even want to call it that. It is less about meddling and more about Marnie coping with the death of her husband and her looming grief, which she'd sooner rather avoid dealing with as much as possible and has successfully neglected up until this point. Make no mistake, the acting is good here, that's not the problem. Susan Sarandon gives an excellent performance as Marnie. Sarandon seems to be giving it everything she's got, and we could tell she felt invested in this project. Rose Byrne is also great, and she seems to play the "depressed" role perfectly. Our favorite character by far is Zipper, played by the marvelous, brilliant J.K. Simmons. Zipper is Marnie's potential love interest. He lives away from the coast, raises chickens, and plays them Dolly Parton to keep them happy and productive. He's a retired cop and doesn't speak to one of his two daughters. His character is the one we wanted more of here.

Sarandon and Byrne, as well as Sarandon and Simmons, have believable chemistry together, but truth be told, a lot happens in this film that never seems to go anywhere. It's a simple character sketch about a woman who has her nose in many different pots trying to avoid dealing with one of life's toughest situations by being overly generous and super nosy. Many minor details are visited or brought up and are left without resolution, leaving us to wonder why they are ever introduced in the first place. We never got bored watching "The Meddler," but it definitely seems like every character is more than willing to take the meddling so long as they are getting something out of it in return. There are many humorous situational moments, but there are other instances where things are clearly meant to but funny, but just aren't. Finally, there is some good, deep emotion to be had along with a few excellent, heartbreaking lines of dialogue that absolutely wrecked me but not BigJ, but again, they are few and far between.

While "The Meddler" does benefit from some strong performances and chemistry by Susan Sarandon, Rose Byrne, and J.K. Simmons, it's little more than a dramatic character sketch dealing with life, love, death, and self-exploration. If we didn't have several personal attachments to the situations that happen within the film's 100 minute run time, we might not have connected much with it at all. In the end, we left the theater a bit underwhelmed by the entire thing and wish we had gotten a little more out of it.

My Rating: 6/10
BigJ's Rating: 5.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 82%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?
One year ago, we were watching: "Memento"

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