tue 18/02/2020

The Meddler | reviews, news & interviews

The Meddler

The Meddler

Susan Sarandon shines as a meddlesome saint of a mum

Whose Oscar is bigger: JK Simmons and Susan Sarandon in 'The Meddler'

Susan Sarandon's natural radiance papers over a considerable number of cracks in The Meddler, writer-director Lorene Scafaria's loving, largely autobiographical tribute to the kind of mum you might want on occasion to throttle but in the end adore beyond all words.

Her grin as wide as the distance between the American coasts that she has traveled in order to start life anew, Sarandon has been given – and runs with – one of the most generous-hearted screen heroines in years.

So what if some of the film's rhythms are off and Scafaria's screen alter ego – Rose Byrne (pictured below, with Sarandon) as the unsurprisingly named Lori (short, presumably, for Lorene) – seems a pouty also-ran? The Meddler offers Sarandon the opportunity to shine anew, and by the time the characters raise their glasses to give her Marnie Minervini a toast, I can't imagine not joining in the salute. 

When first glimpsed, the recently widowed Marnie has relocated from New Jersey to Los Angeles, her Brooklyn accent an aural reminder of the past she has left behind. The reason for her move is to be nearer to the showbiz-centered Lori, a writer who is mourning not only the loss of a father but a romantic break-up. Well-intentioned if not always able to see those intentions through, Marnie is seen intervening to try to put right Lori's thwarted relationship, only to come up against the hard fact that her daughter's intended (Jason Ritter) has moved on: Sarandon handles that realisation especially well.

When not fussing over Lori's possible pregnancy and phoning every few minutes to check in on this or that, Marnie finds her own amorous prospects upended by the kindly Mark (Michael McKean in a lovely supporting turn), in whom she isn't interested, and the suggestively named Zipper (the ever-invaluable JK Simmons), in whom she is. A former policeman who keeps chickens and knows his way around the back catalogue of Dolly Parton, Zipper with time softens Marnie's reluctance and resolve, and Sarandon and Simmons display oodles of chemistry as if to remind viewers that hot, young twentysomethings don't own the patent on striking sparks. 

Whether sporting a body-hugging blood-red dress or not, Sarandon remains a marvel throughout, communicating without undue vanity or fuss the sort of innate goodness that is dramatised far less frequently than you might expect. Scafaria is at no time more attuned to her star than in the scenes that catch Marnie in repose, grinning at a world that she in her own tiny way has helped make better. (We see, among Marnie's other people-turned-projects, the interest she takes in an Apple Store employee who dreams of a career in the law.)

Sure, the script might less diligently sing paeans to a character who is on our side pretty much from the start, but when McKean's smitten Mark drops his reserve to call Marnie a "knockout", it's all but impossible to disagree. 

Overleaf: watch the trailer for The Meddler 



Sarandon and Simmons remind viewers that hot, young 20somethings don't own the patent on striking sparks


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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