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A Widow Turns Busybody In The Meddler

Updated on May 28, 2016

As a widow, Marnie Minervini has a lot of time on her hands. In The Meddler, she finds many ways to fill it. Susan Sarandon plays Marnie, who moved across the country to be near to her only child, Lori (Rose Byrne), a struggling Los Angeles screenwriter. When Marnie's husband dies, she has the money to do whatever she wants, and what she wants is to remain involved. It saddens Marnie to hear that Lori has ended her relationship with Jacob (Jason Ritter), an actor that Marnie liked. The mother also has taken to showing up at Lori's unannounced - and at inopportune times. At a baby shower they both attend, Marnie learns that Lori's friend Jillian (Cecily Strong) had wanted a traditional wedding instead of a civil one for herself and her partner, but they thought the expense came at the cost of providing for their daughter. Marnie offers to pay, plus babysit the girl. She also gets some interest from Mark (Michael McKean), a divorce who has taken a liking to Marnie. Her generosity even extends to strangers like Freddy (Jerrod Carmichael), a computer sales associate who expresses an interest in taking college courses. On top of all of that, she volunteers some time at a local hospital.

In one instance, though, Marnie meddles unintentionally. She wanders onto a movie set and gets cast as an extra. It's there that she meets Zipper (J. K. Simmons), a retired cop who works security for the film's studio. They later spend some time together and have a very enjoyable time. Marnie, however, travels back east when Lori gets a script of hers filmed for a TV pilot in New York. She soon learns that a shoot worker named Ben (Billy Magnussen) has become quite drawn to Lori, which excites Marnie. While on the excursion, she touches base with her in-laws, who want to know about life in California, as well as what she plans to do with her husband's cremated remains. She calls Zipper on the way home and says something spontaneously, but starts to wonder if she can live up to her words. Some things, though, don't go well for Marnie, especially when she sees Jacob again at Jillian's wedding.

The Meddler is an affectionate and funny look at a mother-daughter relationship from writer-director Lorene Scafaria. In her film, Scafaria shows two women facing new directions with their lives. Marnie wants to be surrounded by activity, including a continued close role in Lori's life. Lori stays busy peddling scripts, and seems to be on the verge of going somewhere in that endeavor. While Lori remains focused on her career goals, Marnie wants to be generous with her time and resources. Lori starts to think Marnie's too generous for her own good, and finds her mother more intrusive as regards her. The Meddler doesn't say anything new about family relationships, and reminds me a bit of another pleasant movie, Enough Said. In that movie, Julia Louis-Deryfus played a soon-to-be empty nest mother still wishing to remain active with the people and interests of her daughter while trying to build a new romantic relationship of her own.

Sarandon is a comic delight as Marnie, a woman who wants to touch her loved ones, as well as everyone she meets. At a baby shower for one of Lori's friends, she gives the expectant mother an iPad. The well-meaning Marnie inadvertently buys Lori the wrong product when the daughter thinks she might be pregnant. She doesn't have to give thought to her own future until she becomes acquainted with Zipper. Byrne is also very good as Lori, a woman who wants to make her mark with the printed word who doesn't worry about her failed romances as much as her mother does. I liked her confrontation with Marnie when Lori wanted to see her therapist, only to find that Marnie had booked the therapist's open slot in an effort to get some information on her child. Simmons is great in support as Zipper, a man who spends his free time raising chickens, and learning which music will make them more productive.

The Meddler shows a woman who wants to live life as much as she can. Marnie Minervini goes from day to day with a positive outlook and an open heart. She wants to share the goodness with those she knows and meets, even when her daughter thinks she shares too much. Even Lori knows, though, that Marnie just wants a little more good to come to everybody. The daughter also understands that no matter how od she gets, she'll still be her mother's little girl.

On a scale of zero to four stars, I give The Meddler three stars. The family ties bind for life.


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