I feared that The
Meddler would be a one-joke movie; the “joke” being that a widow (Susan
Sarandon) moves from New Jersey to California to be near her daughter (Rose
Byrne) and just won’t leave her alone. Cell phone calls, texts, and unannounced
visits to her house—even barging in while her daughter is taking a shower—are
an everyday occurrence.
Fortunately, writer-director Lorene Scafaria based this
screenplay on her own real-life situation and refuses to reduce its subtleties
and complications to the level of a routine sitcom episode. She also has the
benefit of a highly skilled actress in the leading role and Sarandon makes the
most of it, Jersey accent and all.
The Meddler presents
a three-dimensional character who is often portrayed in terms of cliché.
Sarandon is independent enough to visit her local Apple store, where she learns
to use new devices and befriends the young man who coaches her… yet she still
feels the pain of her husband’s death and can’t deal with her close-knit family
back in New Jersey. She is lonely and needy but not a victim. Unfortunately,
her solution to almost all her problems is to cling to her daughter, who has
run out of patience.
Then, to her surprise, Sarandon chances to meet a man (the
always-welcome J.K. Simmons) who opens the door to a possible relationship.
Weaving comedy and drama together, Scafaria gives us an
empathetic look at two women struggling to get by. Byrne has her own issues to
deal with, but despite her complaints she does love her mother. That’s what I
like about The Meddler: it’s firmly
rooted in reality, but thanks to good writing and superior performances, it’s
thoroughly entertaining. The supporting cast is first-rate, and it’s great to
see Susan Sarandon in a leading role that makes such good use of her talent.