Sunday 16 May 2021

Movie Review: The Meddler (2015)

A mother-daughter dramedy about grief and letting go, The Meddler is comfortably predictable and enlivened by a sparkling Susan Sarandon.

After her husband died leaving her lonely but rich, middle-aged Mamie Minervini (Sarandon) moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles to be close to her single daughter Lori (Rose Byrne), a script writer. Both are still processing their grief, and Mamie cannot help but meddle in every detail of her daughter's life.

The exasperated Lori takes a break and moves for a few weeks to New York to film a pilot. Mamie fills her time by volunteering at the hospital, helping a technology store employee pursue night school, babysitting for Lori's friend Jillian (Cecily Strong), then organizing Jillian's vow renewals ceremony. She also meets and starts dating retired police officer Randall Zipper (J.K. Simmons). But she can only tolerate the separation from Lori for so long, and follows her to New York to meddle some more.

A light-hearted character study tracing a woman coping with profound loss and life's curves, The Meddler offers few surprises. But with Susan Sarandon in fine form and enjoying the internal consistency of irritating helpfulness, writer and director Lorene Scafaria stays close to fundamentals. The film avoids large emotional swings, operating instead within a narrow range of plausible eccentricity, and always anchored by a mother and daughter who care enough about each other to seek refuge in forgiveness.

Underlying themes, all tackled with a soft touch, include Mamie's slow journey towards giving herself permission to love again, and Zipper providing her the time and space to do so. Mothering spills into smothering when natural worries about a daughter's love life and career are unbound, while largesse is used as a shortcut to secure attention and relevance.

Humour is judiciously deployed, Mamie's cell phone, Zipper's chicken, Lori's dogs and Mamie's dinner back in Brooklyn with the animated family of her deceased husband all a source of chuckles. The blatant single company product placement and boosterism are less enjoyable.

The Meddler ends just a bit further ahead from where it begins. Mamie inches forward in her life as a widow and the mother-daughter bond strengthens while remaining a reliable source of love and vexation. The absence of major transformations ensures a relatively staid experience, but also rings true.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

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