Grandma’s gonna love it!
When deciding on the movie for this week’s Wayback, I had an incredibly frustrating time making up my mind. I first thought I was going to choose a film noir from the 1940s that I’ve never seen before. Then I contemplated picking a romantic-comedy from the 1980s that makes me smile. At one point I was confident that I was going to end up watching a drama from the 2000s that I’ve only seen once but remember really liking. In the end I wound up settling on The Meddler (2015), an independent dramedy from the 2010s. Besides having been on my radar for a while, I chose The Meddler because I wanted something light and breezy that would put me in a good mood. Thankfully, that’s exactly what I got.
Written and directed by Lorene Scafaria, The Meddler follows Marnie Minervini, an aging widow living in Los Angeles who’s constantly interfering in her daughter Lori’s life. When Lori takes an extended trip to New York City, Marnie begins to find fulfillment in other areas of her life and learns that there are others around her who are in need of her meddling.
Before watching, I had NO idea that this was one of Scafaria’s movies. Once I learned that she was the brains behind this movie, it made complete sense why I enjoyed The Meddler so much! Scafaria also wrote the screenplay for and directed the criminally underrated Hustlers (2019) – check out my review for that movie, here – which in my opinion, was one of the best movies of last year. Like Hustlers, Scafaria’s brilliant sense of tone, pacing, and story are executed fabulously in The Meddler, making her a director who moving forward, I’ll see whatever she puts out, no questions asked. Whereas Hustlers was an epic, thrilling, crime caper, The Meddler is a simple and subdued story that’s sweet and pleasant to watch. It’s a charming story about a likeable protagonist searching for fulfillment later in life, a trope I’m always a sucker for. It’s one of those movies that doesn’t have a clear, “in your face,” plot. But it’s so lovely, soothing, and mellow, that it’s still a ton of fun to watch. Sometimes you just have to watch a movie of nice people doing nice things, y’know?
The Meddler could have very easily been a surface-level piece of fluff about a nice lady doing nice things, but it actually goes a little deeper than that. As she selflessly changes and enriches the lives of the people around her, Marnie also learns more about herself, what it means to be an aging mother, and how to let go of her past and move forward. Scafaria crafts a story that is surprisingly engaging, one that you cant help but be interested in seeing how it plays out. Witty, delightful, and spectacularly realistic, Scafaria’s script is so quick and so sharp that you really have to pay attention to it. Thankfully, the story is so heartwarming and true to life, that it’s impossible to be focused on anything but.
Scafaria is a fantastic writer all around but what I’m most impressed by is how skillfully she’s able to establish plot and character. Without relying on any exposition, you completely understand the characters, their relationship to each other, and the world they live in, in just a few minutes. The writing flows seamlessly, absent of any awkward or unnecessary scenes. In fact, the movie was flowing so well and I was having such a good time watching it, that I was relieved at the halfway point to discover that I still had an hour of movie left to enjoy. Really, an hour left of Susan Sarandon’s amazing performance to enjoy.
This is low-key an Oscar-worthy performance for Sarandon. I’m not kidding. As Marnie, Sarandon truly transforms into the character, so much so that eventually Sarandon disappears entirely and all I can see is Marnie. Sarandon is so wonderfully committed to the role that from her first few minutes onscreen, I felt like I had known Marnie all my life. It’s a fully-realized portrayal that is equal parts touching, inspiring, and hilariously relatable. Seriously, watching Marnie you’ll immediately go, “oh my God, that’s so MY mom!” The Meddler is simultaneously a love letter to motherhood while also poking fun at all the little things moms do that drive their kids crazy. What’s great though is that it never mocks or ridicules moms. It simply captures what’s honestly funny about the relationship between parents and their grown children.
Speaking of children, it’s Rose Byrne’s role as Lori that’s this movie’s only con for me. Byrne is perfectly fine in the role and I understand that her character isn’t meant to be as fun or charismatic as Marnie, but to me, that feels like a waste of Byrne’s impeccable comedic talents. It’s a dull role for someone who’s got the range to be wonderfully wacky and hilarious. What’s worse though is that there are fleeting moments in the movie where it looks like the playful, fun side of Marnie and Lori’s relationship could be explored, and the movie never goes for it. The strained relationship between the two is still interesting to watch, but Sarandon and Byrne are so good together, I would have liked to have seen some fun as well.
If you’re looking for a low-stakes, pleasing, relaxing hour and half, look no further. The Meddler is adorable. You could totally watch it with your grandma while eating cookies and drinking lemonade and I guarantee that you’d have a lovely afternoon. That sounds like an awesome afternoon, actually. Oh! Speaking of food, there were some closeups of people cooking and eating that were so appetizing, I was practically drooling on my laptop. I love when movies include food porn like that. Speaking of, I feel like it’s definitely time to watch Julie & Julia (2009) again. By the way, check out my review for that movie, here. A thoroughly satisfying movie, The Meddler is an absolute winner. I mean, ANY movie that includes songs by both Beyoncé and Dolly Parton is an instant winner in my book.
Have you seen The Meddler?
Let me know in the comments or on social media!