Comedy Drama

'The Meddler' Film Review: A funny and touching tribute to moms everywhere

May 6, 2016Ben MK

With a theatrical release timed to perfectly coincide with the Mother's Day 2016 weekend, The Meddler is a comedy about the relationship between a doting mother and her adult daughter, as well as a poignant drama about dealing with the loss of a loved one. It's also a film that any child with an overprotective parent — or vice-versa, for that matter — will undoubtedly identify with.

The titular meddler is charmingly portrayed by Susan Sarandon, who plays a widow and native New Yorker named Marnie Minervini. Even though the second anniversary of her husband Joe's death is fast approaching, Marnie has yet to fully come to terms with her grief. In fact, it seems like she'll do almost anything but confront the reality of Joe's passing, which is why she's packed up everything she owns and moved across the country to sunny Los Angeles, California, so that she can be closer to her single daughter Lori (Rose Byrne), a struggling TV writer.

Unfortunately, Lori doesn't see things quite the same way, and she views her mother's constant calls, texts and unannounced drop-ins as more of a nuisance than anything else. Nevermind the fact that Marnie is always bringing her unwanted bagels, and that she also has a habit of hanging out with Lori's friends, even when Lori isn't around. On top of all that, Marnie has also started seeing Lori's therapist, which makes it near-impossible for Lori to vent about how she feels about her mother's neverending involvement in her day-to-day life.

Then one day, Lori leaves for New York City to shoot a TV pilot. But while this proves to be a welcome reprieve for Lori, Marnie, on the other hand, worries about how she'll keep herself occupied. Her concerns as soon rendered moot, however, as she finds herself planning the nuptials for Lori's friend Jillian (Cecily Strong), becoming the chauffeur/confidante for a friendly retail worker named Freddy (Jerrod Carmichael), and meeting a potential suitor named Zipper (J.K. Simmons), a retired cop who rides a Harley Davidson and raises chickens in his spare time.

Based in part on writer/director Lorene Scafaria's own experiences, The Meddler is very much a spiritual successor to Albert Brooks' Mother, another comedy-drama that examined the nuances of the mother-child relationship. The main difference here, though, is that the film's central protagonist isn't the offspring, but the parent; and Sarandon's portrayal goes a long way in making her character more than just a one-dimensional joke, while Byrne turns in an equally great performance as the long-suffering daughter who doesn't realize how much she needs her mother.

The film also features a brilliant supporting cast that includes the likes of Casey Wilson, Lucy Punch, Jason Ritter and Michael McKean. However, it all boils down to the combination of Scafaria's wonderfully sharp writing and Sarandon's funny but heartfelt performance, both of which elevate The Meddler well beyond typical Hollywood tropes and clich├ęs. As if that weren't enough, Scafaria also manages to incorporate the '90s band Blues Traveler and Juice Newton's "Angel of the Morning" in a way that's completely sincere and non-ironic, so bonus points for that.

The Meddler releases May 6th, 2016 from Mongrel Media. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for brief drug content. Its runtime is 1 Hr. 40 Mins.

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