At the outset, the voice-over from meddling mother Marnie (Sarandon), leaving the first of many messages for her daughter Lori (Rose Byrne), feels off because of an overly pronounced New Jersey accent that sounds a little forced from Sarandon’s familiar voice. But the moment Marnie’s words connect with Sarandon’s face, the character is real, and we see this middle-aged woman jaunting around the tourist hotspots of Los Angeles, avoiding difficult discussions about her husband’s death while dispensing advice in sentences starting with “You should…” and “What you have to do is…”
Sarandon is a beautiful woman, but her beauty doesn’t lead this story, which is a relief; her management has been screaming, “Look, she’s still sexy!” for the past 10 years. (The PR kit actually uses the word “sexy” in the first line of Sarandon’s bio.) I'd prefer movies that acknowledge that a 60-something woman can be a complete human being — which includes sexiness — rather than making it the focus. The Meddler is one of the few recent films to utilize Sarandon completely in this way without getting into unbelievable schlock (ahem, Tammy). It's a fun and funny movie that delivers an honest portrayal of a mother-daughter relationship and the heartache that comes not just from losing someone but from moving on after they’re gone. Unfortunately, it’s not flawless.
Making an ultimately positive movie means the possibility of inconceivable gooey sweetness. Writer/director Lorene Scafaria, known for the equally adorable Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, walks the line by giving Lori acerbic tantrums to offset Marnie’s overbearing goodness. When Lori’s not in the picture, the film suffers.
Marnie's interactions with the other characters tend toward goofiness, especially Jillian (Cecily Strong), a woman who readily accepts $13,000 from Marnie to have her dream wedding, even though Marnie just met her. That also goes for an African-American man (Jerrod Carmichael) Marnie’s helping with his night school — a visit from the cops means she has to eat a bag of weed to protect him, but it sends her on only a mildly high journey, despite the fact that she
Hands down, what propels this film into