There are not many Hollywood roles for mature female actresses and when they come along it makes good sense to capitalise on it. And this is exactly what veteran star Susan Sarandon has done in The Meddler.
Director Lorene Scafaria has fashioned a sitcom with enormous depth, intelligence and sweet melancholy and it serves Sarandon admirably. The characters depicted are very real. They are imbued with feelings, flaws and especially heart, and this helps make the whole experience profoundly affecting. Sarandon portrays Marnie Minervini, a New Jersey widow, who has inherited a large sum of money from her Italian husband.
With little activity to occupy her mind, Marnie is fuelled by her need to meddle in the private lives of everyone she knows, especially her grown daughter Lori (a solid Rose Byrne), who lives in Los Angeles, where she is pursuing a career as a writer of TV sitcoms. Convinced, but delusional, that her daughter needs her close for everyday advice, Marnie sells everything and relocates to LA, arriving in the city much to her daughter’s consternation.
Lori, who had just broken up after a long relationship, is mortified, but her invasion of privacy is just beginning, as Marnie has plans. Insightful and utterly charming, The Meddler reworks familiar material with humour and understanding.
The mother from hell has to change her ideas and is helped along by a romantic interlude with a retired cop and Harley-Davidson owner (a wonderful JK Simmons) who shows her more than the sights. He works as a security guard on movie sets.
This is without doubt one of Susan Sarandon’s most telling performances and observing her undergoing a severe personality change is a sight to behold. Her adventure of discovery holds no bounds. She spends the money her late husband left her on people she hardly knows – turning up at a baby shower to present the expectant mother with an expensive iPad, paying for the wedding of two of Lori’s lesbian friends, financing a college education for a poor sales clerk at the Apple store, and finding herself innocently accused of being a campus dope peddler.
She wants to do things for others because it fills the void in her own life – but her well-meaning gestures don’t impress everyone. The first-rate support cast adds to the enjoyment of a film that is warm and hugely appealing.