Opening 14 Jul 2016
Writing credits: Lorene Scafaria
Principal actors: Susan Sarandon, Rose Byrne, J.K. Simmons, Jerrod Carmichael, Cecily Strong
This is all about expectations. Describing her semi-autobiographical film writer-director Lorene Scafaria says, “but it’s not just for my mother. It’s for your mother. It’s for you. It’s for anyone who knows what it’s like to start over. It’s for anyone who’s been left behind.” Scafaria joked/warned mom on-set (Seeking), after Gail moved to L.A., “the next one’s going to be about you.” To pull it off, Lorene and producer Joy Gorman (integrating Gorman’s real-life wedding account) needed a strong actor.
Sarandon (Marnie), Gail Scafaria’s onscreen counterpart, and executive producer, handles the strong-willed, overly assertive yet well-meaning role with her usual professional verve. Lorene’s on-screen counter-part is Byrne (Lori). Albeit the role is secondary to Gail, Byrne balances the feelings mom’s close proximity generates: guilt, being overpowered, remorse, and love. Add to the mix Marnie’s involvement with Lori’s ex-, deceased husband/father Joe’s east coast Italian family, a gaggle of Lori’s gal friends, and a computer salesman cum friend. Marnie’s male interests, Michael McKean and Simmons, give a boost in their too-short screen time. While Los Angeles’ personality cannot be denied: “It’s like living on Main Street in Disneyland.”
The writer-director and producer acknowledging the film’s homage to Scafaria’s mom, family, could have clarified audience expectations. Without which, the story seems flat, Sarandon overworked, and Byrne and Simmons lollygagging. Certain clichés should have been avoided as well, e.g. Sinatra singing as Marnie sits in front of a water-fountain (think Ocean's Thirteen, 2007); the over-enthusiastic bridesmaids come across borderline greedy. Kayla Emter should have edited at least 10-minutes of superfluous footage; instead, Marnie’s “kind and generous” comes across as disrespectful meddling. Not a strong mother-daughter film – Postcards from the Edge (2001) or Terms of Endearment (1983), still, The Meddler is lightly entertaining. (Marinell Haegelin)