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.