Thank goodness for the rise in independent productions making a play for adult dramas and comedies that star some of our greatest acting talents. That’s my initial takeaway from watching The Meddler, which marks an unfortunately rare leading performance from Susan Sarandon. Much like Grandma, Hello, My Name is Doris and I’ll See You in My Dreams, The Meddler‘s focus on an older woman may not involve the most inspired material, but it shows an actress still capable of giving a strong performance, not hamstrung to a bit part in a bigger picture.
Marnie (Sarandon) has recently moved from New Jersey to Los Angeles to be near her daughter, Lori (Rose Byrne), a screenwriter. Marnie’s husband passed away a year earlier, and between that death and a rough breakup with her boyfriend, Lori is clearly distraught. Marnie simply wants to be there for her daughter, even if that means leaving a string of unanswered voicemails, texts about the voicemails, and voicemails about the texts. Thanks to her late husband’s prudent financial planning, Marnie can also afford to try and take care of Lori. And Lori’s friends. And the guy from the Apple Store who keeps selling her iPads.
In other words, Marnie’s got her own issue: she needs to feel needed, by any means necessary. While this is played for laughs more than anything, and rarely feels like something where the recipients of Margie’s kindness are deliberately taking advantage of her, the film doesn’t hide from the sadness behind her actions.
While Sarandon’s Jersey accent might take a minute or two to work its way into a viewer’s head, once it’s in there, the film just works. It’s endlessly charming, and Sarandon is completely radiant in the role. It helps that she’s surrounded by a strong ensemble in the supporting cast, with Byrne and J.K. Simmons (playing a potential love interest) providing characters who push Marnie in different directions.
Given her amount of solo screen time, though, this is Sarandon’s show. And while it’s not a revolutionary story, it’s a heartfelt one that resonates thanks to her performance. It’s good to see Sarandon show that, at a time when most women are written off, it’s entirely possible to still be full of life as a woman approaches 70. We can all only wish we were this full of life.
There is no doubt that Sarandon is excellent, but IMO she had a very poor script to work with. My review concludes that its a “weak script, full of clichéd melodrama, tired gags, and feigned sentimentality.”