“Another Rich And Layered Performance From Susan Sarandon In The Meddler”
If you are into drinking games, you could really get a good buzz on watching Susan Sarandon’s “Marnie” work “Cuuaaall me” into almost every scene of the new dramedy, The Meddler.
This is a well crafted, mature comedy about a woman trying to fill up her suddenly empty life with her daughter’s life. Susan Sarandon stars as Marnie, a widow of almost two years, but after a lifetime with her loving husband it seems just like yesterday.
Moving out to Los Angeles from New Jersey, seemingly to be closer to her neurotic screenwriter daughter is only part of the reason. Avoiding her husbands family and a looming decision as to where to bury his ashes, is another helpful by-product. Portraying the stereotypical, yet still enjoyable to watch East Coast mother, Sarandon brings her star quality to the material.
The material is actually semi- autobiographical to the writer-director, Lorene “Lori” Scafaria. Ms. Scafaria is a screenwriter that has brought us some enjoyable stories such as “Seeking A Friend For The End Of The World” with Steve Carell and “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist”
Now I don’t know how much, if any of this story she lived, but I can extrapolate from the film that this is her story, and she seems to know it intimately. Marnie’s daughter Lori is a successful Hollywood screenwriter with a seemingly tortured love life. In the opening scenes we see Lori hiding in bed in the middle of the day, while her carefree mother ambles around The Grove and other L.A. hot spots narrating everything she sees to Lori’s voicemail. After every interminable phone message is the ubiquitous, “Cuuall me!”
Lori makes it plain that she doesn’t appreciate her mother’s random pop in’s and unsolicited advice about her meandering relationship with a TV star, but this doesn’t even begin to deter her suffocating mother. Marnie is sure that all Lori needs is a loving intervention from her mother and a little girl time.
When Lori declines to attend a baby shower with her own friends, Marnie shows up in her stead. This lends some awkward laughs to the film. Now at this point the overbearing mother routine would wear thin if the story didn’t start to go in another direction and start to reveal Marnie’s backstory.
Marnie and her beloved Joey were teenage sweethearts and had such a wonderful marriage that Joey’s early death has left Marnie, with a lot of life to live and not a clue how to live it. Marnie is set for life financially, but with her upscale Grove Apartment and every hip electronic doo-hicky the nearby Apple store just don’t seem to fill the void.
After being set up with Michael McKean’s sleezy “Mark” at a baby shower by Lori’s pregnant friend, Emily it is clear that Marnie is not ready for a new love. Setting her sights again on her daughter is short lived when Lori informs her that she has to go to New York for a few weeks of re-writes. After trying to insert herself into the trip, Marnie is left to her own devices.
At the end of another late night stroll around The Grove, Marnie runs into J.K. Simmon’s charismatic character, “Zipper.” Zipper is a retired policeman, the two met briefly on a film shoot he was working on the beach in Malibu that Marnie literally stumbled onto. Their next chance encounter leads to a crazy night on the back of Zipper’s Harley Davidson, him introducing her to his chickens then a mature conversation about their past loves in the wee hours of the morning at his coffee table. Things seem to click between the two, but Marnie’s fear of the unknown forces her to keep him at arms’ length.
This film is very well crafted and told and yet I fear will only find a very narrow art house audience. There are no sex scenes or car chases, only at times laugh out loud situations that we have all encountered with our parents and some very fine relationships between characters, young and old. J.K. Simmons channels a mixture between Sam Elliot and the Marlboro man and there on screen chemistry is palpable.
If you have lived a little and experienced life, love and loss then you will enjoy and be moved by this film. Don’t be fooled by it’s uninspired title, it is far from an Adam Sandler comedy. And if nothing else draws you into the darkness to enjoy this gem, come to see what ever became of John Popper and the Blues Traveler, because they make an appearance as well!
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