The Meddler Chooses Acting Over Plot Points

And Pens a Love Letter to Mothers in the Meantime

Estranged mother and daughter reunite in The Meddler.
Estranged mother and daughter reunite in The Meddler.
The Meddler (PG-13) 100 min.
Dir. Lorene Scafaria; writ. Lorene Scafaria; feat. Susan Sarandon, Rose Byrne, J.K
Simmons, Lucy Punch, Michael McKean, Jason Ritter, Casey Wilson

Mother's Day may have come and gone, but that doesn't mean that cinematic mothers can't be celebrated by filmmakers and moviegoers alike, a feat that is beautifully executed by Lorene Scafaria, writer of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist and director of Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. The Meddler showcases a subtle tour de force performance from Susan Sarandon, a recent Brooklyn transplant to Los Angeles who is desperately vying for a substantial place in her only daughter's (Rose Byrne) hectic Hollywood life. In an attempt to supplement her estranged familial relationship, Sarandon happily ingratiates herself with her daughter's best friends and a wayward Apple store employee, successfully going out of her way to bring happiness and substantial well-being to all with whom she comes into contact, ultimately receiving the appreciation by these relative strangers that she can't seem to earn from her own self-obsessed child.

As the titular character, Sarandon owns this film with her carefree and socially fearless performance. She is a fresh breath of air in an urban landscape that is notorious for promoting alienation and isolation. With the uncanny ability to relate to those outside her immediate communal circle, Sarandon's recent widow is the mother to all that you and I never had, willing to throw herself into new and uncomfortable situations in order to, in her own words, fill out the empty hours of her day. The unanimously positive reactions met by Sarandon's benevolent actions only serve as a counterpoint to her daughter's inability to recognize her mother's good intentions and self-sacrificing behavior, making this myopic oversight all the more heartbreaking.

As a charming character piece, the film's acting is king of its cinematic universe. J.K. Simmons is another highlight of The Meddler's offerings. Portraying a romantic, mild-mannered and low-key potential love interest to Sarandon's mildly overbearing matriarch, Simmons has effectively turned 180-degrees from his Oscar-winning portrayal of a totalitarian, no-questions-asked elitist jazz conductor in Damien Chazelle's riveting Whiplash, only serving to emphasize the actor's impressive, chameleon-like versatility.

Although The Meddler may not make major waves with the film-going audience at large, it deserves to be seen by those who appreciate wonderfully acted, character-driven narratives carried out by two Oscar-winning thespians. Sarandon's socially unconventional mother-to-strays is a sight to behold, and J.K. Simmons is the man who can potentially ground the meddler and help her transition from grieving over her fallen, late husband. The Meddler is a love letter to mothers across the globe, and it will make any audience member re-examine his or her emotional connection to their familial matriarch.

The Meddler opened at Santikos Bijou Cinema Bistro Friday, May 20.

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