Feeling like I’d tapped out Netflix, I came across a film I’d never heard of, but starring actors whom I always enjoy: The Meddler, featuring Susan Sarandon, Rose Byrne and J.K. Simmons.
The Meddler, from 2016. Hmm, never heard of it, and if it wasn’t for those three names, that Hallmark Channel title and poster art might have put me off. A cliched meddling mother? Eeek. Is this anything like Monster-in-Law? With trepidation, I hit play.
Sarandon is the Meddling mother
What a small delight. The title does tell the truth, as Sarandon’s Marnie is quite the meddling parent, and not only to her daughter. Newly relocated to Los Angeles after the death of her husband, lonely Marnie tries to lovingly insert herself into her daughter Lori’s (Rose Byrne) life, and when she meets a brick wall, she expands her stream of unsolicited advice and aggressive caring to anyone around their social circle.
Life is good enough for Jersey transplant Marnie; she loves her new locale, her condo, and as played by Sarandon, her life as a healthy, seemingly happy and fetching retiree. Still, we see that emptiness in her soul that, no matter how much she busies herself, she can’t quite fill, and when pressed won’t acknowledge at all. Sarandon really enhabits Marnie, accent and all, and annoying or not, seems very real, like mothers we have or we’ve met, or maybe we’re stuck with. At the onset of the story, Marnie is very much a mother, capital M, putting her widowhood and her personhood, if that’s a word, on hold.
The supporting cast in The Meddler is full of faces you know, with a great turn from Cecily Strong and my always favorite Lucy Punch who maximizes every second she’s on screen. Rose Byrne has the heavy lifting to do, as the long-suffering daughter, and she walks the fine line of loathing, understanding and needing her mother’s smothering presence.
The Meddler is directed by Lorene Scafaria who was masterful with the tone of the apocalypse dark comedy, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. She keeps Sarandon on the side of sane here even when her actions veer towards the edge of social norms.
It’s not a huge comedy but it’s a well-observed look at a relationship a lot of us might know all too well. Definitely give it a watch. And call your mom.
A former ABC National, Dallas and Atlanta radio personality, Martina O'Boyle is now making movies and covering culture in London, Dublin, and as far in Europe as the cheapie flights will take her, for Pop Culture Beast.