Review: The Meddler

Score: A-

Director: Lorene Scafaria

Cast: Susan Sarandon, Rose Byrne, JK Simmons, Cecily Strong

Running Time: 100 Minutes 

Rated: PG-13

Don't let the terrible title fool you. The Meddler is a total delight that gives romantic comedies a good name again.

Susan Sarandon plays Marnie, the titular overbearing mom. Recently widowed, she moves from New York to Los Angeles to be closer to her daughter Lori (Rose Byrne). When Lori tells her to back off, she starts finding ways to invest in the lives of everyone around her, from Lori's friend Jillian (Cecily Strong) to a kind Apple Store employee (Jerrod Carmichael).

Of course, all these random acts of kindness are only a way to cope with her deep loneliness. And while the film excels as a comedy, it's far deeper than its trailers reveal.

That's not surprising, considering The Meddler is written and directed by Lorene Scafaria. She's responsible for one of my favorite movies of the decade: the similarly melancholy Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. This is another rewarding film with fully realized characters who have honest-to-God conversations with each other.

Late in the picture, Marnie meets an ex-cop (JK Simmons, who might be filling in for Sam Elliott given how much he looks and sounds like him here) who woos her sweetly, despite her hesitation. This is where the movie really sings, because most movies would rush this relationship or add more pratfalls, but her reluctance isn't just there for conflict. It's true to her character, as flawed as she is.

Even five years ago, this would be getting a wide release. But we live in an age where studios aren't invested in delivering smart, modestly budgeted, well-made movies for adults. But at least someone's still making them. As the onslaught of big summer blockbusters comes our way, don't overlook gems like this one.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.

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